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Comment By Torchlight

A significant pointer to the trends in ecumenism took place on March 25 when George Basil Hume, a Benedictine monk, was enthroned as Archbishop at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Westminster, in succession to the late Cardinal Heenan. Later that day the Archbishop, at the invitation of the Anglican Dean of Westminster, attended Westminster Abbey for the singing of the Latin Vespers. This was the first Latin plain-song service to be heard at the Abbey for over 400 years.

Archbishop Hume, now the leader of five million Roman Catholics in England and Wales, used the occasion to review the prospects of union between the Church of Rome and the Church of England. He spoke of ancient wounds and scars slow to heal, and added, "We have been, I think, like two sisters - estranged, not on speaking terms, quarrelsome, misunderstanding each other.... The sister churches can now look back on a past that is dead and buried. We can look forward to new life, to new hope and, in God's time, to the goal of Christian unity. Already in the last decade we have seen much achieved to reunite the two sister Churches".

Such sentiments will be heartily endorsed by those who consider that reunion is a goal to be achieved at any cost. It is not without significance

that there were no discordant voices in the secular Press. These days it is considered 'intolerant' to protest when Reformation principles are flagrantly abandoned.

The event to which we have referred is another indication of the strength of the Ecumenical Movement, and further evidence of the decline in evangelical influence within the Church of England. For ourselves, we endorse the verdict of a competent student of these disturbing trends: "The Ecumenical Movement... bids to become the greatest menace to the truth of the Gospel since the time of the Reformation" (Donald Gillies, M.A.).

Israeli Adversity

In recent violent demonstrations in Israel seven Arab rioters were killed and scores injured. Thousands of police and troops were drafted into the hilly region in North Galilee to quell the rising there - the worst in the history of modern Israel.

The Government had announced that it was going ahead with plans to requisition 1,500 acres of Arab-owned land and 1,000 acres of Jewish land in the region around Nazareth. It was proposed to re-develop the area, providing new houses for both Jews and Arabs. In protest against these proposals the powerful Arab Communist Party called for a general strike.

Arabs in Israel now number about half a million. There has been growing unrest in the occupied West Bank of the Jordan. The revolt in Galilee was apparently exploited by the Communists to air general grievances about the treatment of Arabs in Israel. These internal problems are a grave complication for Israel in the present turbulent phase in Middle East politics.

The civil war in Lebanon and the fear of Syrian intervention there is being viewed with increasing apprehension by Israel, as well as by Egypt and the U.S.A. We write during a tenuous ceasefire (April 9) and by the time these notes are in print the situation may have changed in one direction or the other.

An ominous feature of the present inflammatory situation is the undenied report that Israel has a nuclear arsenal of 13 atomic bombs ready for use. No satisfactory solution to the Middle East debacle is yet in sight. As Scripture indicates, there is a problem there which defies mere human diplomacy.

New Prime Minister

The resignation of Mr Harold Wilson, the longest-serving Prime Minister of the United Kingdom this century, and the elevation of Mr James Callaghan to that high office, were notable events early last month. Mr Wilson has carried a crushing load in a period of flux and crisis. That burden will now fall on the new Premier. The tasks ahead are formidable indeed. The strain of such high office in present conditions is apparent to us all. Christians everywhere will continue to make supplication at the Throne of Grace "for all that are in high place". This is more than a formal duty; it is a vital Christian responsibility.