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Friday, 31 October 2014

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World leaders to thrash out issues at Rose Castle centre for reconciliation

World leaders could gather on the outskirts of Carlisle, as confidence grows in plans to transform Rose Castle into an international centre for reconciliation.

Rose Castle photo
Rose Castle

The people behind the scheme launched the Rose Castle Foundation last month, to announce the initial plans for the Grade I-listed building, near Dalston.

There had been angry reaction from residents and historians alike when, in 2011, the Church Commissioners’ assets committee agreed a sale in principle for the historic house – the former home of the Bishop of Carlisle.

Chaired by the city’s current bishop, the Right Rev James Newcome, the foundation is the final attempt to save the building from being sold to developers.

The Church Commissioners agreed to extend the deadline to come up with the money until June, and Bishop James is optimistic that Rose Castle will be preserved.

“It is going well,” he told The Cumberland News. “We’ve attracted some start-up money from trusts which is encouraging.

“The main issue remains funding and the money we need to move forward, but things are looking very good actually. We are pretty confident we will find the money by June.”

It will cost millions to purchase, restore and run the castle as a centre for reconciliation, but the bishop revealed it has already attracted worldwide support.

For the first time, he revealed that there would be four strands to the new centre.

“The first strand is something called scripture reasoning,” he said. “[That involves] Christians, Jews and Muslims sitting down together and studying their respective scriptures.

“They are not trying to pretend they believe the same things, but it is about identifying areas of difference and increasing mutual understanding and respect, which is quite important in today’s age.”

Bishop James said the second strand focused on religious training, with the intention of running courses for people such as politicians, journalists, diplomats or members of the armed forces, to “help them understand the role of faith in today’s society”.

The third aspect is perhaps the most high-profile, and would see the castle used as a place for conflict resolution.

“We are looking at the possibility of fairly high level talks between world leaders who might get together there and have a serious and secure place to have discussions,” he said. “We are already partnered now with a number of universities – including Cambridge, Cumbria, Glasgow, Durham and even Duke in America – and with a number of foundations.

“We will act as a hub for centres of reconciliation around the world.”

Bishop James said the Cumbrian centre would be unique both in its own history and its size.

“It offers opportunities not many other places have,” he said. “I think people are quite excited about our proposals.”

The fourth strand of the proposals would see the centre working in partnership with Christian environmental charity A Rocha to look at “environmental reconciliation”.

Bishop James said: “What has been fascinating is the way in which interest has been sparked all over the world, and it is quite remarkable the way it is going.

“We haven’t yet got all the money we need, but we are certainly confident and on the right track.”

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