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Read our special interview with Cardinal Cormac Murphy-OConnor
posted on 08 April 2009
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-OConnor
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-OConnor

Question
You were installed as Archbishop of Westminster in March 2001, what were your thoughts when you became Archbishop?

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-OConnor
I think my thoughts were two-fold really. One was, my primary task is to be Archbishop of this huge Diocese of Westminster and thats a daunting task, but I really felt with the grace of God and the experience I had as Bishop of another Diocese I could do that. What was very daunting of course was to be much more a focus on a national level both with my fellow Bishops but also with Rome, so I felt apprehensive, but also I must say a certain confidence that with the grace of God I could do the job.

Question
What have been the key challenges that have faced the Church in the Diocese of Westminster over the last eight years?

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-OConnor
One is the increase in the Catholic population here in this Diocese, the people from a huge number of countries and theyve increased the numbers in our Parishes. It seems to me that we also have to speak up for them once theyve settled here because its always difficult when youre an immigrant and the Church is always on the side of those who are either poor or feeling uncertain or on the margins and so thats been a big challenge for us.

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The other challenge of course is to make sure that we express what we believe in what I call the secular culture of our age which is now very un-Christian. Although theres a Christian heritage, at the same time so many people are not effected by Christianity, therefore we who believe that the Christian message is true must give that more bravely, more courageously, more faithfully. That means, and this is the third and probably the most important challenge, that weve got to develop our Parish communities so that we really are living witnesses to Christ.

Question
As youre preparing to retire as Archbishop, a record number of people are becoming Catholics in the Diocese of Westminster; how do you explain that?

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-OConnor
I think that a very large number of people in our country are thinking, well whats the meaning of my life, whats the purpose of my life. When they look at the Catholic communities, they see there communities of faith and hope and love, and say I want to be part of that, I want to be part of that family.Im always getting letters, I had one today from some man who had been exiled from the Church. He said I felt I must come back when I saw the stand that the Catholic Church was making in so many ways, I wanted to be part again of that community.

Question
One of your priorities has been to help people strengthen and deepen their faith through things like the At Your Word programme and small communities, why has that been so important?

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-OConnor
I think its because I have found in my long life as a Priest and Bishop that everyone needs other people, other Catholics, other Christians, to actively support them in their faith. We meet as a Eucharistic community on Sunday, but theres got to be other occasions. This often happens within the family but also theres the wider family, and within the small communities people are able to talk about their faith and the light of the Gospel and how they could relate it to their daily life individually, and I found that as being very, very effective for so many Catholics. I would say it has affected a lot of people because lots of people have said this has changed my spiritual life.

Question
Youve been a Priest for over 50 years, how do you think the position of the Catholic Church has changed over that period of time?

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-OConnor
One is that together with other Christians, particularly the Church of England, but Free Churches as well, I think that the Catholic voice, the Catholic presence is crucial for Christianity in this country, and I think over the past ten years particularly theres been a sense of we live in a global village. The Catholic Church is by far the biggest Christian denomination and the Catholic Church in England is linked with the whole worldwide Catholic Church. That gives it an authority I think which in the past it didnt have partly because of the dominance of the established Church, but I think thats changed now.

Question
Do you think theres a risk that the Catholic Church becomes a little bit too cosy with Government?

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-OConnor
Theres always the dangers. Weve got to always be aware we are swimming against the stream, some people will call it counter cultural, that there are certain things on which we have to speak out very strongly and maybe we could do it even more strongly than we have done over the last ten years.

But I think ones got to be careful that one realises one is in the midst of this society, weve got to speak from within, and not from without, were not a sect, were not just a faith group who happen to do their own thing, we are seeking the common good of everyone, the human good, the spiritual good and people have got to realise that.

I was speaking the other night about a Christian presence in our world, seeking and affirming whats good but also developing it so that theyll see that the best good is to know God and to love ones neighbour. I think there have been battles, there will be more and I think that the Catholic Church has got to be confident in its firm beliefs, and also willing to, I say to do battle, speak up firmly and I think that the majority of people of this country respect this.

Question
Throughout your life youve always emphasised the importance of ecumenism, why is that so important to you and where do you think we are on that journey?

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-OConnor
I think its important to me because I think its the will of the Lord . The Vatican Council special document on ecumenism urges us not just to dialogue but to realise what unites us with our fellow Christians and therefore there was a road ahead, both through dialogue, prayer, friendship, working together and as much as one can to try and reach the unity which was the will of the Lord, and thats something very dear to my heart, all my time, especially my time as Bishop.

How successful have you been? Well you know Mother Teresa said God hasnt called me to be successful hes called me to be faithful and so I would say we have come a long way in many respects. Here in this country the relationships between ourselves and fellow Christians, the Anglicans, Free Church, its very close indeed and I think indeed that in the future well have to co-operate very, very strongly wi
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