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Red Mass celebrated at Westminster Cathedral
posted on 01 October 2008
Lawyers gather in Westminster Cathedral for the Red Mass
Lawyers gather in Westminster Cathedral for the Red Mass

Father Ignatius Harrison, Provost of the London Oratory, celebrated the Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit, also known as the Red Mass, at Westminster Cathedral on 1st October 2008.

The Mass provides an opportunity for those involved in the legal profession to call upon the Holy Spirit to guide their work over the coming year. The main body of the congregation was made up of Catholic barristers, solicitors, policemen, probation officers and others connected with the courts.

In his Homily Father Harrison asked the Holy Spirit to guide members of the legal profession throughout the forthcoming year: We ask for some share in the endless outpouring of the Divine mind, which is the ultimate source of all truth and of all justice. Lawyers will never want to lose sight of a higher law.

The Mass was attended by Catholic judges from the Court of Appeal and those on the High Court Bench including Mr Justice Richard Johnson, President of the High Court of Ireland and Sir Gerald Barling QC, President of the Competition Appeal Tribunal. The Mass was also attended by those on the benches of all the Circuits as well as judges from the European Court of Human Rights and the Irish Bench and Bar. 

The Red Mass has always been an important moment in the legal year. Prior to the Reformation the judiciary and legal profession gathered at Westminster Abbey on the first day of Michaelmas term to invoke the assurance of the Holy Spirit in the year ahead. This practice stopped during the Reformation in the sixteenth century. The custom was revived in 1891 and from then until 1904 was celebrated in the parish church of St. Anselm and St Cecilia, Kingsway. In 1904 the Mass was transferred to Westminster Cathedral at the particular wish of Archbishop Bourne (as he then was). Every year since then the tradition has continued.

The arrangements for the Mass are made each year by the Thomas More Society, whose membership comprises mainly Catholic members of the Judiciary and Bar as well as solicitors.

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