A royal launch for Stonyhurst's Christian Heritage Centre

Lord Nicholas Windsor unveils plaque at Theodore House
Lord Nicholas Windsor

Theodore House, the Christian Heritage Centre at Stonyhurst College, was officially opened by Lord Nicholas Windsor on Friday.  This £4 million project converted a listed disused mill in the College grounds into a centre for study, retreats, Christian renewal and for the training of the laity in Christian leadership.

Lord Nicholas, youngest son of the Duke and Duchess of Kent and a convert to Catholicism, is a Royal Patron of Theodore House. He unveiled a plaque on the site of the converted corn mill in the presence of Lord Shuttleworth, the Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire, and more than 200 dignitaries.

The opening ceremony also involved a blessing by the Rt Rev John Arnold, the Catholic Bishop of Salford, and the Rt Rev Julian Henderson, the Anglican Bishop of Blackburn.

Lord Nicholas Windsor said: "It is a very exciting moment. Theodore House will be a centre of excellence in the fields of formation, study and retreats. It should be known about by schools, parishes and universities as a place where people can visit. It would be the purpose - squarely and fully - of the centre to be part of the 'New Evangelisation' and I think that is the mission."

Theodore House is named after St Theodore of Tarsus, a 7th century Archbishop of Canterbury who worked for Christian unity within the British Isles.

Architect's model of Theodore HouseIt has 39 beds, a small library, two seminar rooms, a lecture theatre, and a refectory for the use of visitors, retreatants and scholars. Aid to the Church In Need, the charity that supports persecuted Christians, will be among the groups providing retreats for school children and other groups.

The Christian Heritage Centre will allow greater access to the magnificent collection of historical and religious artefacts and relics amassed by the Society and Jesus and held by Stonyhurst College on behalf of the Catholic community of Great Britain. The collection includes relics associate with Mary, Queen of Scots, St Edmund Campion and St Thomas More as well as countless other English martyrs.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, said: "Theodore House, with it is programmes for people of all ages and cultures, creates an ecumenical environment, which will promote dialogue, cherish diversity and encourage respect, as well as tolerance, for all. I pray that this initiative will enrich spiritually all those who spend time in these beautiful surroundings and may they, like St Theodore, be inspired to become a powerful force for reconciliation and healing within a divided Church."

Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, said: "I send my best wishes and the assurance of my prayers at the opening of Theodore House as a place of retreat, study and training. Theodore of Tarsus was the 8th Archbishop of Canterbury. I am the 105th. He came from a far land, fleeing persecution, and exercised his ministry as a bishop, teacher, evangelist and pastor here in England. It is fitting that this place of faith, prayer, education and hospitality is named after him.I pray that God bless the work of this centre, those who serve here and those who come to benefit from it."

Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London, said: "As we enjoy our freedom to worship and freedom to live out our Christian Faith, we must never forget the suffering of those who, even in our own times, have none of those same privileges. I hope and pray that Theodore House will deepen the understanding of our rich Christian heritage, and help to form a new generation of Christian leaders who spread the Gospel and serve the nation.

Theodore House"Recalling the origins of St Theodore; his refugee status; his experience of persecution; his considerable learning in Theology, music, languages and the sciences; we must bring the same combination of Faith and life to a society that often believes it can do without God. It is my earnest prayer that Theodore House, and the Christian Heritage Centre, will renew the vision and mission of St Theodore to Britain."

Lord Alton of Liverpool, Chairman of the Christian Heritage Centre at Stonyhurst, said: "Whether for groups preparing for Confirmation of First Communion, or for parish or school retreats, Theodore House and the Christian Heritage Centre should be a 'must-visit' destination. Set in stunning countryside, at the heart of the Tolkien Trail, it will also be the perfect place for families and individuals wanting to spend a few days recharging their batteries. The name Theodore means 'gift from God' and hopefully time spent at Theodore House will prove to be a gift to anyone who is searching for Him,or wanting to know God better."