Thursday, May 16, 2013

Schönborn as "Alpha Male" – At HTB, A Clasp of the Titans

His hair still apparently electrified from a Conclave experience roundly described as intense in prayer and its outcome a shock even to the electors, earlier this week – in what's become a rare English-language turn – Vienna's Cardinal Christoph Schönborn OP gave some colorful testimony on the election, Popes Benedict and Francis, the situation of the church and much more at the annual leadership conference of the vaunted "HTB": Holy Trinity Brompton, the evangelical London Anglican parish best known for birthing the Alpha Course of evangelization and catechesis... and, now, for being the ecclesial "cradle" of an archbishop of Canterbury.

The general editor of the Catechism of the Catholic Church – released in 1992, the first universal text of its kind since Trent – the Dominican cardinal (a longtime B16 protege) was interviewed in a sold-out Royal Albert Hall by HTB's vicar, Fr Nicky Gumbel, whose 1990s transformation of Alpha toward spiritual seekers instead of the already evangelized launched the course's global spread across denominations, its reach now said to have extended to some 20 million people in over 100 languages.

Staffed by 24 clerics who lead 11 weekly services at four sites (in a national church whose decades-long decline in attendance only recently stabilized), HTB bills itself as the UK’s largest parish. 

Before his death in 2000, Cardinal Basil Hume of Westminster led a push for Alpha to be adapted for Catholics. While the #2 official of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, Colombian Archbishop Octavio Ruiz, has called the course "a providential tool because it precisely tries to reach out to those who are far from the church" – and two French Alpha teachers (a married couple) were named to last year's Synod on the re-proposal of the faith by Benedict – a Detroit-based effort to bring the program into American Catholic life remains fledgling.

All that said, here's Schönborn – one of the Catholic world's most fluent, yet oft-controversial top figures – in a clip that's as long as it's worthwhile....

Beyond Gumbel's plug for the Catechism, the vicar's introduction even more exceptionally worked in high praise for Loving the Church – the book of Schönborn's talks at the 1996 Lenten retreat to John Paul II and the Papal Household.