Diocese of Westminster
This is a long-awaited and happy day for the Diocese of Westminster. In the first reading, the Lord says, 'I am going to look after my flock myself and keep all of it in view' (Ezek. 34:11). Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd who keeps everyone in view, knows each one by name. But to be shepherding in His name, to keep all of this large and great Diocese in view, help is needed.
I am very happy that today there are present among us two former Auxiliary Bishops of this Diocese, Bishop Philip Harvey and Bishop Victor Guazzelli, both now retired. I also pay tribute to the present generous and highly respected Auxiliary Bishops, Bishop Jim O'Brien and Bishop Pat O'Donoghue. But now to be ordained are two new Bishops, Bishop-elect George Stack and Bishop-elect Arthur Roche. I am most grateful to the Holy Father for having given to me and to the Archdiocese of Westminster two such talented and outstanding priests. Mgr. Stack has given exceptional service in this Diocese, and in particular here at the Cathedral over many years. Mgr. Arthur Roche, from the Diocese of Leeds, has given great service there but also, of latter years, exceptional service to all the Bishops as General Secretary of the Bishops' Conference.
Over this past year I have been thinking about the needs of this Diocese - the needs of the priests who shepherd with me, and the needs of the People of God in the parishes of the Diocese. In the reading the Lord says, 'I shall rescue them from wherever they have been scattered during the mist and darkness. I shall bring them back to their own land' (Ezech. 34:12-13). What does this mean?
The culture of our world today is saturated with images and we suffer from an information overload - not all of it needed. We have the press, T.V., computers, all of which bombard us with images that promise life, achievement, happiness. We have pictures of pop stars, film stars, celebrities of various sorts and politicians - smiling, promising us the earth. Those are mists, the masks - but what we truly need to see is the real image, the real icon that really smiles, the God who is Father, who loves us, forgives us and is the beauty that we seek. When I was created Cardinal by Pope John Paul, he kindly gave to me as my Titular Church in Rome the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva. In that church is buried the famous painter, Fra Angelico, just recently declared the Patron of Artists. His surviving paintings radiate spiritual serenity and an understanding of religious faith exceeded by few others - touches of the beauty of God. No wonder the Psalmist says, 'It is your face, O Lord, that I seek, hide not your face'. How I long for the images, the real icons of the God, who has come to us in Jesus Christ, to be made manifest more deeply, more faithfully, within the communities in our Diocese.
Should not the presence of God pervade the liturgy that we seek to celebrate so reverently in the churches of our Diocese? How beautiful should be those celebrations which enable the People of God, the flock, to be in communion with God through His Son, Jesus Christ. The striving for holiness is the vocation of every Christian, for holiness implies the presence of God in our humanity. The people of our world expect more from us than social involvement and secular humanism. What people expect from us is a living answer to the ultimate problems that can be so difficult to answer. They do not expect an earthly paradise of a capitalist or socialist kind. What we witness to is the coming reality, the spiritual dimension, the experience of God and the taste of eternity.
I was present the other day with a large group of young people. There they were, listening to the Word of God, praying, relating it to their lives, to their world, to our world. Do not think that the young have abandoned the search for God. We must help them to dispel the mist and the darkness and the false images. Together in groups, small and large, through prayer, service to others, the formation of young people in the mind and likeness of Christ transforms their lives, gives them fresh hope, fresh vision.
This applies to everyone. To be a Christian, a Catholic, today, is not easy. It needs even more than just attendance at religious duties. Within the Diocese we should be fostering small communities, women and men who will reflect on the Word of God and pray and radiate the rumour of the reality of that other world. Jesus said, 'Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them' (Matt. 18:20). We must all, young and old, take the Gospel seriously. We need wholehearted formation in our faith.
What is it then that we bring to our world - so global - our 'runaway' world? It seems to me that what we offer is wisdom; truth about our nature, about God, about ourselves and about our destiny. We live out the wisdom of God's Kingdom, the Kingdom of justice and peace and truth and love. Our hearts should be restless until we strive more generously, more faithfully, to live out that vocation to bring the Kingdom of God about in our world.
Yes, I know the Church itself has its own fill of intolerance and human sinfulness and lack of warmth and charity. In the Basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, about which I was speaking, there is buried another great saint, St. Catherine of Siena. She was a brave and courageous woman who so loved the Church that she did not hesitate to denounce the failings and the luke-warmness of so many and she called for the Church to be the mystery of Christ in the world and to be the humble servant of all. She even dared to tell God what to do! This was her prayer: 'You know how, and you are able, and it is Your will, so I plead with You to have mercy on the world and to restore the warmth of charity and peace and unity to Holy Church. It is my will that you do not delay any longer'. She was a daring woman! But it was love that animated her and mercy that she implored.
How rarely do we find mentioned in the public arena the quality of mercy, of forgiveness. People say today that everyone has lost a sense of sin. I am not sure about this. I rather think that society is haunted by an almost unbearable sense of guilt - people who are crushed by a sense of failure in their lives and in their families. Just look at the face of poverty that is seen in the world at large. How important it is that we show that people, whatever their condition, are loved for themselves and are forgiven, whatever their weakness.
So what are my words today? Our two new bishops have on their ordination cards the words of Jesus to Peter, who was about to go fishing: 'Launch out into the deep, pay out your nets for a catch' (1 Peter 5:3-4). Our vocation as bishops, and as priests, and as lay people, has come to us at a strange twilight time as we await the dawn of the fruits of the Holy Spirit in our new Millennium. It is certainly not a time for retrenchment. It is a time to have courage in our ministry. While we preserve the Church's heritage of truth and experience, we need boldly to take hold of the future. We need to strike out along new paths in pastoral ministry to enable us to gather together the flock of Jesus Christ and form them in His likeness.
For all, the task that we do, must be done together. None of us can work alone. Priests must work with lay people in leadership of their parishes. Lay people, women and men, need to come together to listen and work for the Kingdom of God. We bishops, too, must work together. Peter says in today's reading, 'Be an example that the whole flock can follow' (1 Peter 5:3).
Dear Arthur, dear George, Bishops-elect, we must strive together to be an example to the flock that has been committed to our care. Our motivation is ultimately the motivation that has been that of all the saints throughout the ages. Jesus said to Peter, 'Do you love me more than these