THE Archbishop of York spoke of his hopes for the future as he celebrated the 900th anniversaries of three Lancashire churches.

The Archbishop of York, The Most Rev. and Rt Hon. Stephen Cottrell also told the Lancashire Telegraph how important it was for people of all faiths to come together for the common good, a theme during his meetings with people in the region.

The Archbishop’s journey across the Diocese took him to Burnley, Whalley, Blackburn, Lancaster and the Fylde Coast, including Blackpool Pleasure Beach Globe Arena for an evangelistic mission evening on Saturday night. 

Archbishop Stephen said: “I had a fantastic weekend in Lancashire – there is much to celebrate and give thanks for. Thank you to everyone involved.

"My prayer is that we are confident in sharing our faith with others so that more may now the love of God and enter into a relationship with him.” 

Speaking to the Lancashire Telegraph he said: “It has always been important that people of all faith come together for the common good.

“There was a golden moment during Covid when people recognised what could be achieved for humanity as we worked together.”

Asked about the diocese had played an important part in helping to welcome refugees to the country Archbishop Stephen said:  “The whole world is aware of the horrors that are happening in Ukraine.

“What we have to realise is that it is incumbent on us all to know there are people from other countries, such as Yemen and Syria that are also seeking asylum. I am keen to see that we also look to welcome those from other nations who have suffered."

During his visit to Burnley College he mingled with civic, commercial and business leaders from the town for discussions over lunch. They included the Council’s Chief Executive, Mick Cartledge and the Mayor of Burnley, Councillor Cosima Towneley.

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At Burnley College Archbishop Stephen met with students and staff

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Later, he met with students from the college who peppered him with a variety of questions about his journey to becoming an archbishop and his personal faith.

The Archbishop said: “Although I’ve met some great grown-ups and members of staff I think what I’ve enjoyed so far in my visit to the County is talking to the young people – including being quizzed on life and matters of faith and hope! Really inspiring.” 

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Archbishop Stephen was welcomed to the Ghausia Mosque, Burnley

He then moved on to the Ghausia Mosque in Burnley where he was greeted by community leaders, including the Leader of Burnley Council, Councillor Afrasiab Anwar.

After a warm welcome to the mosque, a inter-faith discussion was led by Andy Pratt, Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for Lancashire and Bishop’s Adviser on Inter-Faith Matters.

Archbishop Stephen said: “It was a fabulous meeting. We have received wonderful hospitality and importantly great conversations about where we can build bridges and friendships together and work for the common good.”

Councillor Anwar added: “It’s been a pleasure to welcome the Archbishop to Burnley and to this mosque as Leader of the Council but also as Chair of the inter-faith organisation ‘Building Bridges in Burnley’ – a role I’m passionate about.

"Building understanding and bringing communities together to learn more about one another helps to reveal all the things we have in common and allows for honest conversations.” 

At Whalley Abbey, he visited the new Diocesan Centre for Christian Discipleship and Prayer is based, run by Director, Rev. Adam Thomas.

At Whalley, the Archbishop said: “The Abbey has always been a wonderful place but it’s so inspiring to see what has happened in the past year or so; with new life being breathed into the place, new management and new ambition.”

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A special service was held at Blackburn Cathedral

At Blackburn Cathedral he led a service which celebrated the 900th anniversaries of three East Lancashire churches.

Delegations from St Bartholomew, Colne; St Mary Magdalene, Clitheroe and St Peter, Burnley turned out in force on the special day.

Archbishop Stephen said: “That’s 2,700 years of Christian witness and service from those three churches to their local communities and it reminds us of the joyful responsibilities we carry and continue to carry into the future, sharing what we have received.” 

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Bishop Julian speaking in Blackburn

Bishop Julian, who is retiring in the summer, said: “As I look back over the three days I have lots of gratitude and give thanks to God.

"It gave the Archbishop the chance to engage with so many aspects of Diocesan life and has given him a real feel of what is going on the Diocese.  

"This is also useful preparation for him as the Diocese goes into a vacancy for the role of Bishop of Blackburn; for the kind of person the Diocese needs to find for taking over my role when I step aside. And I have invited the Archbishop to continue to pray for us in the days that lie ahead.”  

Archbishop Stephen added: “I’m hugely grateful for the time I’ve spent here in the Diocese. I do want to pay tribute to Bishop Julian in the last couple of months of his ministry here.

"He has been such a steadfast, faithful and creative presence; focusing the church on what really matters, which is to live and share the Gospel with others.

“I’ve met lots of great people, I’ve received lots of wonderful hospitality and seen great things and I want to assure the Diocese of my love, support and my prayers. I come to you as a fellow pilgrim. Together we are walking the way of Christ and together we do need to share that with others. It’s what our world needs. Thankyou and may God richly bless you.”  

You can watch a full recording of the livestream on the Cathedral YouTube channel. You can find the link to the channel via the Cathedral website homepage