Saturday, 23 May 2009

Archbishop Nichols' Installation Mass

[Photo credit: M.Mazur/CCN]

This image of Archbishop Nichols as he entered Westminster Cathedral seems to me wonderfully iconic. The modern buildings in the background - shops and offices - show the presence of a Church in the modern world.

A couple of people I spoke to yesterday, who had been able to see (or hear) some of the news media coverage on Thursday, described this event very favourably. There was favourable comment on the coverage by the BBC, and on the coverage by Premier Christian Radio, who were reported to have been giving very careful explanations of what was happening during their coverage. This latter is interesting from two points of view. I suspect it drew heavily on the press and web materials prepared for the event - one up to those responsible for that. Premier is a Christian radio station that broadcasts to the London area, and I do not think I am being unfair if I describe some of its output as being Christian in the way in which Evangelical Christians use the term Christian. So it is very interesting, and encouraging, that they appear to have given Archbishop Nichols' installation significant coverage.

Bess Twiston Davies describes the installation in the "At your service" column in today's Times. This piece contains the rather intriguing:

While not a precise equivalent to the Archbishop of Canterbury in terms of leadership - the leader of England and Wales's Roman Catholics is technically the president of the Bishops' Conference, a title already bestowed upon Nichols - the Archbishop of Westminster is usually made a cardinal and will often give the Catholic view on matters of national import.
The term "leadership", taken alone, represents somewhat of a reduction from the full understanding of the office of a Bishop, so it is rather intriguing to see that being the category used for comparison of the sees of Canterbury and Westminster; it naturally results in the promotion of the status of president of the Bishops' Conference to a kind of quasi-jurisdiction.

The article continues:

This is reflected in the greeting given him by Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury: "The Roman Catholic and Anglican communities in England and Wales have the God-given task ... of making the Good News of Jesus compelling and attractive to a generation deeply in need of hope," he says.
It was interesting to see the installation of a Roman Catholic Archbishop achieving the kind of media status that might in the past have been associated only with occasions of state. But the hazard is that, as in this Times article, there is a certain assimilation in the consciousness of the installation to such occasions of state. -

The bit I liked best in the Times article, though, having been a Master of Ceremonies, is this:

Some 500 clergy, dressed in white, turn to the altar, where a cloud of incense momentarily dims the gold vestments of the Archbishop. The priests raise their hands in his direction for the prayer of Consecration.
Well, not his direction exactly, but you can tell that a thurifer is doing his job when the celebrant disappears from view ....

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