The Pope was praised as a peacemaker by Dr Patrick Rodger, Anglican Bishop of Oxford, when he spoke to the international conference of the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Monday in the University Church of St Mary in Oxford.
More than 200 leading theologians from all over the world attended the four-day conference which began last Friday in London and moved to Oxford on Monday. It was the fourth conference in ten years and the British ecumenical movement's most important event.
Cardinal Hume, the society's president, gave the opening address at the Westminster Cathedral Conference Centre before leaving for Ireland. He brought an autographed message of goodwill from the Pope to the conference. at which there were delegates from the Anglican, Baptist, Methodist and Orthodox ch urches.
Pope John Paul took up the conference theme of Mary in the thinking of reformers and said: "Between Mary the Mother of the Church and our present work for unity there is a close and important link."
During its three days in London the conference took part in a special Mass at Westminster ('athedral, at which Cardinal Suenens preached, and in evensong at Westminster Abbey. where Bishop Clark of East Anglia reminded delegates that "the Marian dogmas are associated with an essential element in the mystery of Christ."
Cardinal Willebrands, head of the Secretariat for the Union of Christians, was prevented from attending the conference by the Pope's visit to Ireland.
Over the door of St Mary's, where the conference closed, is the statue of the Virgin and Child for the erection of which Archbishop Laud was prosecuted and beheaded in the 17th century. From the pulpit where Newman gave his last University sermon as an Anglican, on Our Lady, Fr Roderick Strange, assistant Catholic Chaplain at Oxford, spoke on Newman's Marian thought.