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Do not ignore society's religious hunger, Cardinal tells Christian Leaders

posted on 08 November 2004
The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, has told Christian leaders that they must not ignore the hunger for religious truth in the hearts of their contemporaries.

He made the warning as part of a wide-ranging speech at the Churches Together in England (CTE) Forum last Saturday, in which he set forth the principal four challenges for the next Pope.

On the question of church governance, the Cardinal put himself squarely in the reformist camp, saying that collegiality - the doctrine that the bishops govern the Church with and under the pope - should be given 'a renewed emphasis'.

The Cardinal, who is co-president of CTE, was one of a number of speakers at the forum of Christian leaders, who gathered at Stick Rochford Hall, near Grantham in Lincolnshire, to consider the theme of 'Sharing the Vision'.

'The end of religion has not come', the Cardinal said, pointing to a newly-assergive Islam, the revival of religion in the eastern bloc and the newly-galvanised evangelical vote in the United States. Even in Europe, he said, 'religious belief is exerting a new fascination among the young, as is evident in the increased take-up of RE at A-level and theology at university'.

He said science and technology were posing dramatic new ethical questions but that 'it is ever more plain that science cannot of itself provide answers to new moral dilemmas which scientific advance has created.' He said the question of the legitimacy of the uses to which scientific explorations can be put are 'ultimately religious questions'.

'I don't mean that religion has all the answers,' he said. 'But religion raises the question of what it means to be a human being, a human person, and what rights attach to our humanity, or whether a human being has any inalienable rights - and it is only by answering the first questions that answers to the specific questions can be found.'

He said Christians should not be deceived by the apparent rejection of religion by society.

'We fail in our service of society if we take at face value what appears to be a rejection of religion, if we ignore the restlessness and searching that lie, often unspoken, in the hearts of our contemporaries.'

Turning to the next papacy, the Cardinal said he saw four major challenges.

The secularisation of Europe was causing the Church to become more of a 'leaven in the mass' than the 'city on the hill'.

The challenge of Islam demands that Christians find a way of dialoguing with Muslims. 'There have been many quarrels and dissensions among Christians and Muslims over the centuries,' he said, adding: 'Christians have a task to forget the past, to strive for a mutual understanding for the benefit of everyone and together to preserve and promote peace, liberty, social justice and moral values.'

The third challenge was the gulf between rich and poor. 'Christians must be at the forefront of a cry for the poor,' he said, adding: 'I think we should beat our breasts that we do not do more.'

The fourth challenge for the next Papacy, he said, was the need for greater collegiality, the doctrine defined at the Second Vatican Council that the Church was governed by the bishops 'with and under the Pope'. The Cardinal said: 'I seems to me that this relationship needs a new emphasis if the governance of the Church is to be more totally credible in today's world.'

He said bishops must consult more with lay people in their dioceses, in order to govern in a way that was 'more thoroughly conversant with the Spirit of God that speaks in every Christian heart'.

The Cardinal said the challenge for the Anglican Church was the reverse: while Anglicans were better at consulting, they needed a greater focus of communion, as the Windsor Report had argued.

Turning to the future of dialogue between Christian Churches, the Cardinal said he would like to see the next Pope call together the leaders of the Christian denominations in order 'to be able to share more deeply and more communally our desire to speak and spread the Word of God.'

He said ecumenism was currently in crisis, but that this was not a reason to give up hope. The crisis is both 'a challenge and a time for decision,' he said.

But the Churches had come closer, he went on. 'The closer we come to one another the more painful is the separation, the perception that we are not yet in full communion,' he said. How to forge deeper communion in both practical and spiritual ways was now the major question in ecumenism, he added.
1. Collegiality was defined in the Vatican Council document on the constitution of the Church, Lumen Gentium. The Cardinal is here adding his voice to calls by other cardinals, notably Godfried Danneels of Brussels and Carlo Maria Martini, formerly Archbishop of Milan, for collegiality to be more fully implemented. The model of the bishops governing the Church 'with and under the Pope' implies that the Roman Curia is the instrument of the bishops' college rather than the Pope alone. Some commentators say that Pope Paul VI's attempts to reforming the Roman Curia to enable greater collegiality were thwarted, and that they have been further frustrated under Pope John Paul II.
2. From 1982 to 2000 the Cardinal was co-chairman of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC).
3. More details about the CTE gathering at www.churches-together.org.uk/events.html.
Contact Details:
Austen Ivereigh
Telephone: 020 7798 9045 or 07905 224860
posted on 08 November 2004

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