I am very grateful for the invitation to speak to you at this Symposium on Christopher Butler, Abbot of Downside and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Westminster. It is fitting that we do this in the centenary year of his birth, and in particular that this reflection focuses on Bishop Butler's contribution and insights into the Second Vatican Council.
The town of Reading has not too many claims to fame - but that is debatable! However, in the footnotes of history it might be recorded as the hometown of Abbot Christopher Butler and Cormac Murphy-O'Connor! Abbot Butler's family had a wine business in Reading and he grew up there. When we met we often talked about the 'old town' and its significance in the greater scheme of things. I only got to know Bishop Butler when I too became a bishop, by which time he was retired. But he always attended the Bishops' Conferences and there I began to appreciate his academic excellence, his dry humour and his theological insights, particularly his understanding of the Council.
St Mary's College, Strawberry Hill, Twickenham:
I chose to speak tonight about authority in the Church and in Society. I rather wish I hadn't!
Still you kindly chose to come and hear me speak, so as long so long as you don't go away thinking 'You rather wish you hadn't ' we'll all emerge the better for it!
The notion and the practice of authority touches us all in a deeply personal way. The existence of authority, or rather authorities, is a fact of your and my everyday life. Yet, if we're honest, we are uneasy with that reality. I suspect this is because though not synonymous, we find it difficult to separate the idea of authority from the idea of power. And power makes us nervous. In recent times we have become accustomed to question how power is exercised in the religious, social and political dimensions of our lives. We are very conscious, and increasingly intolerant, of what we perceive to be abuse of power.
Ireland - my image of Ireland as much as the reality of Ireland - has always had a very precious place in my mind and heart. My father came over to England from Ireland just before the First World War, followed nine years later by my mother. Although born and brought up in England, I was never allowed to forget the country of my parents. Every summer, my father took a small house for a month in a place called Ardmore. I have many happy memories of those times. The kinds of memories that never seem to fade. They remain vivid and can be conjured up instantly when by a chance remark, a familiar sight or even a smell. I remember those holidays almost as though it were yesterday: playing, swimming, going to look at the Round Tower, or at the 'Pattern' of St. Declan - and always accompanied sooner or later by the gathering of family from far and wide. The family was so enormously important in those days. The family meant everything. Whether you were a small group or a gathering or the clan from around and about you always had that sense, especially as a child of being part of something very strong, very solid and something very important to all concerned.
The Standards by which war with Iraq must be judged.
A conflict on the current evidence and terms would be difficult to support.
A key section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church urges us, because of the evils and injustices that accompany war, to pray and to do all we can not to be drawn into armed conflict. Indeed it goes further: 'All citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war'.
Tonight's lecture is about the pastoral office of a bishop. I would like to divide this lecture, like Gaul, into three parts. Firstly, I will speak about Christopher Butler from his own writings and try to expound his understanding of the Church with particular reference to the renewal engendered by the Second Vatican Council. Secondly, I would like to talk about some of the challenges that face the task of a bishop today. Thirdly, I will say a few words about the huge theme of evangelisation in our time and in our country.
Address given at the Symposium of European Bishops
We are here to discern afresh the signs of our times, especially as experienced by young people. We are also here to determine how we as Catholics might better respond to the challenge of being authentic and accessible signs of Christ for our times.
The world in which we live is the context in which we are called to witness to our faith. A problem for us is that the world is changing so fast. It is hard to keep up. No doubt this holds more true for leaders in the Church, than for Christians as a whole. We are a cautious lot. It takes time to develop responses to new currents of thought, behaviour and belief in the world around us. But it is clear that the world is not going to slow down to let us catch up. The onus is on us to read more accurately the narrative of our times and to respond in ways that are meaningful to people who do not share our own peculiarly ecclesial culture and language.
Amidst the appalling human tragedy unfolding in the Middle East I wish to draw attention to the fact that over two hundred people, Christians and Moslems, are in serious danger of being allowed to starve to death in the Church of the Nativity at Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christ. Among them we believe are some 80 Catholic priests and nuns, as well as a large number of armed and unarmed Palestinians who burst into the church on 2 April and claimed its sanctuary. Since that date no food or water has been allowed into the church. Supplies are now running dangerously low.
The government of Israel has made clear that an attack on the church by the defence forces which surround it is not envisaged. If the present situation were allowed to continue there can only be two possible outcomes to the impasse: a negotiated settlement or the slow death by starvation of those held in the church.
To deprive people food and water and to deny the wounded essential medical assistance is contrary to humanitarian principles enshrined in international law. I appeal to the Israeli government to allow food, water and medical supplies into the church without delay and without prejudice to continuing efforts to resolve the standoff.
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor
Archbishop of Westminster
191 Marsh Wall
London E14 9RS
One of the most endearing characteristics of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother was her sense of fun and her capacity to make everybody feel totally at ease in her company.
Less than a year ago I had the privilege of being next to her at a luncheon party. We talked about all sorts of things and began reminiscing about the Second World War. We found ourselves humming the old popular tunes like 'The White Cliffs of Dover', 'We'll Meet Again Don't Know Where Don't Know When'. Soon the whole table was joining in and it became a luncheon singsong.
When my predecessor, Cardinal Basil Hume, was told that he would die within a few months, he wrote a letter saying that he had received two wonderful graces. Firstly, that he had been given time to prepare for a new future and, secondly, he found himself calm and at peace. It seems to me, as I think about the Queen Mother, that it was somewhat the same for her. She had been preparing for death for a very long time. She did not fear it or change her life because of it. She continued living life to the full. Through marriage, and then an accident of history, the Queen Mother was called to live a life of duty and service to the nation and rose magnificently to the challenge, and well beyond, treating everybody she met with courtesy. She delighted in people and they loved her for it. She prepared for death with a good and generous and Christian life.
The Queen Mother, too, as she prepared for death, was calm and at peace. Her Christian faith admitted her - as well as us - into death's secrets. She has gone to a better place, where she will realise that all her experiences of goodness, of love and beauty and joy, are found perfectly in God. Christians believe that it is in heaven that we finally rest in God and, in some way, our hearts are restless until they rest in Him. Father, we do well always and everywhere to give You thanks through Jesus Christ our Lord. It is in Him Who rose from the dead that our hope of resurrection dawns. The sadness of death gives way to the bright promise of immortality. Lord, for Your faithful people, life is changed, not ended. When the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death, we gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven. May Elizabeth the Queen Mother, rest in peace.
Italian Magazine Il Regno:
Eminenza, si ricorda quando ci vedevamo a Pulborough, nel Sussex, negli anni '90? Lei era vescovo di Arundel and Brighton e copresidente della II Commissione internazionale anglicana-cattolica romana (ARCIC). Sua è la firma alla dichiarazione congiunta del settembre 1990 su: La Chiesa come comunione. Allora forse neppure lei pensava di succedere al card. Hume nella sede di Westminster. E invece, sono già trascorsi due anni da quando è stato nominato arcivescovo di Londra. Quando le fu comunicata la nomina, quali furono i suoi pensieri?
«Quando ricevetti la notizia della nomina ad arcivescovo di Westminster, il mio primo pensiero fu quello della rassegnazione. Non posso dire di essere stato del tutto sorpreso, perché in qualche modo si poteva prendere in considerazione questa eventualità, così, quando mi fu proposta la sede di Londra la accettai con un sentimento misto di rassegnazione e di apprensione, ma anche con molta fiducia. Pensai che per i pochi anni in cui sarei stato arcivescovo di Westminter avrei avuto un compito da svolgere. Il santo padre mi aveva scelto, c'era un compito da svolgere e, nonostante i miei limiti e le mie debolezze, avrei potuto farlo».