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Conference Chairman - MICHAEL AKERMAN

On behalf of the national committee of Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice I am delighted to welcome you all here today for the fifth Faith of our Fathers conference.

Some of you have travelled long distances to be here ... you have come from all parts of the United Kingdom and Ireland ... and from several other European countries ... and even, I am told, from South America. Some of you have had shorter journeys ... but whether you have come from near or far you will realise as the day unfolds how necessary it is for you to be here today.

Each of our speakers has a detailed, personal knowledge of the 'genuine crisis facing the church today' ...especially as it relates to this country. Each of them will be making an important contribution to this conference ... contributions which, I am sure, will be translated into prayer and action by you when you return to your own homes and parishes.

This is the long-awaited Great Jubilee Year 2000. A Holy Year. A year of special graces, indulgences, pilgrimages and missions. It is also the year which the Holy Father has dedicated to the Most Blessed Trinitv. It is an especially important time for the Church ... all of which gives our Conference an added significance.

The annual Faith of our Fathers Conference has become a major focal point for faithful Catholics in this country. It is a meeting place for like-minded Catholics ... some of whom at times feel very isolated. It is a day when we can exchange information and ideas as we celebrate and defend the Faith.

Naturally we are not going to please all of the people all of the time ... but if we are criticised for proclaiming the truth and upholding the faith then we must be doing something right!

As Mother Angelica said from this very platform during our second conference: "if you are not a thorn in somebody's side - you are not a Catholic."

You will notice that we have reprinted in the programme our 'petitions' - for the fifth year in succession. We make no apology for this as they have still not been heard. These petitions are not our ideas ... they are simply restating what Rome has requested at various times ... which is really what this Conference is all about.

Our theme this year is Unity in Truth. The unity we work for and pray for is, first and foremost, unity among Catholics. The truth we refer to is God's truth .... the opposite of error .... nothing more, nothing less.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that: "In Jesus Christ the whole of God's truth has been made manifest. Full of grace and truth he came as the light of the world ... he is the truth" (para.2466). Our theme is echoed in the titles of today's talks. It is going to be a memorable day.

Several Masses are being offered this morning for the intentions of the conference and I know many prayers are being said by those who are unable to be here today. A few moments ago we sang the Credo. We affirmed our belief in God and in each of the other articles of the Creed. To that act of faith we might have added, as Catholics, a further affirmation which goes like this... "Moreover I believe whatsoever else the Catholic Church proposes to be believed ... and this because God, who is the Sovereign Truth, who can neither deceive nor be deceived, has revealed all these things to this his Church."

Those Catholics who support the right and duty of the Church to define, to teach and to protect the Truth are not doing so as a matter of blind obedience.

It is with our eyes wide open that we freely choose to place ourselves under the authority of the Church - as under that of Christ. This is our privilege as Catholics. And it is our responsibility to ensure that the Truth is passed on intact. So - what is the problem? Why do we continually encounter opposition, dissent and confusion within the Church. Why is the Church facing the "genuine crisis" to which the Holy Father referred?

These are questions which our speakers will be addressing in talks which I know you will find informative and inspiring.

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