Cardinal praises 'new search for values and purpose' in Britain
posted on 07 July 2005
‘Gaudium et Spes has transformed us all’
The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, has brought to a close a four-day conference at Worth Abbey with a survey of the ‘signs of the times’ in modern Britain.
The conference, ‘Reasons for Living and Hoping’ has been celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, otherwise known as Gaudium et Spes.
Conference speakers included Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Vatican’s Christian Unity council; the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, formerly the Vatican’s observer at the United Nations; Mark Thompson, director-general of the BBC; and the Abbot of Worth, Dom Christopher Jamison, star of the three-part BBC2 series ‘The Monastery’.
Also speaking were two leading Catholic intellectuals: Dr James Hanvey, the Heythrop College lecturer, and Nicholas Boyle, the Cambridge professor and author of Who are we now?
The conference was a joint venture between Heythrop College, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, and Worth Abbey. Among the 80 invited guests were three archbishops from Britain and Ireland: the Archbishop of Armagh, Sean Brady; the Archbishop of Glasgow, Mario Conti; and the Archbishop of Cardiff, Peter Smith.
Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor’s closing address was entitled, “Ecclesia Caritatis: Reasons for Living and Hoping”.
Recalling his presence at last Saturday’s ‘Make Poverty History’ rally in Edinburgh he said: “If the presence of two cardinals at the head of a rag-tag anti-poverty coalition, and the Pope’s blessing of its aims, raise few eyebrows, that is, of itself, a measure of how the Constitution has transformed us all.”
Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor said he could not “accept the place allotted to us by a secularist version of society”.
“While respecting the autonomy of the political and civic spheres, our faith refuses to be content with a private room simply because the love of neighbour has to take us into the public sphere and, in the true spirit of our Catholic vision, will always direct us to the neighbour who is beyond our borders.”
He said society was marked by “a search for a new order of values and purpose”. Evidence of this was in what he called “a renewed sense of responsibility for the developing nations, the enormous generosity in the moments of international disasters, the commitment to the ‘make poverty history’ campaign, the movements for international justice and peace that transcends party politics.”
'We can see too, the growing commitment to human rights throughout the world not only at the level of international law but in the ethos and values of ordinary civic life. There is the growing awareness at every level of society that creation has to be respected and cherished rather than ruthlessly exploited and instrumentalised.”
Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor said he also sensed what he described as “a new awakening to the issues of human life, from its beginning to its end”.
He said this awakening became apparent to him earlier this year when he made a call for abortion to be an election issue. “I had touched a nerve among the British people,” he said.
The full address can be read under “cardinal – speeches and articles”.