One of the great recurring joys of being involved in Catholic life is finding new people who are also sincerely trying to live a Catholic life. Recently I encountered this in a really big way…
At the end of Augugst, representatives from around the world joined together in London for the 56th General Conference of the Apostolat MIlitaire International (AMI). The AMI is the official global forum for Catholics in military service. It represents 40 different nations, of which 14 were able to attend the London conference. The AMI is a member of the Dicastery of Laity, Family and Life, which means that when the Vatican wants to ask a question about military matters, it’s the AMI that they turn to.
The Delegates listen to the Opening Address
The AMI general conferences are held in a different city each year, and this was the first one ever to be held in the United Kingdom. As you might expect, the event was pretty special and included high profile speakers like Chief of Defence People Lieutenant General Swift and Lord Dannatt, also a Royal Airforce flypast and visits to MOD Mainbuilding, Westminster Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and Windsor Castle. The event was centered in the magnificent old grounds of St Mary’s Catholic University, Twickenham. It featured discussions on important and practical subjects such as fostering spiritual devotions in the military, post-traumatic stress and moral injury, and developing features for the Catholic Military Connect App. The talks given by SMEs were fascinating, and we plan to share some of the content with you in video or blog form soon.
Out and About in London
The Catholic Military Association had members in attendance from the Navy, Army and RAF, helping to run the event for the UK Bishopric of the Forces. All those attending from other nations were warmly and sincerely supportive of our work both helping at the event and more widely in having established an Association for the UK armed forces.
In total, it was an immensely encouraging opportunity to meet other Catholics from our Association and from around the world from as far afield as Kenya, the Philippines and the USA. The delegates, which included, colonels, brigadiers and a 3* Admiral, made concrete decisions in good faith to push forward Catholic practice in their respective countries, and this was inspiring to witness. Furthermore, in acknowledgement of the lay character of the AMI, and the CMA’s status as a lay association, Bishop Paul Mason has appointed our Association as the official representative of the UK at future General Conferences of the AMI.
The Flag Party, all Members of the CMA
The topics discussed have extraordinary relevance across the world, and applying these lessons in peace time will help to make sure that we are all better prepared when we find ourselves in conventional war fighting operations. In this way, the AMI has the same mission exactly as the CMA, which is to forge a band of better Catholics, better people and better operators in our roles. It was an absolute privilege to help plan and to attend the General Conference, and the CMA will endeavour to represent the UK well in the years to come.