Monday, 1 February 2010

Bishops of England and Wales: ad limina visit

From Archbishop Nichol's address to the Holy Father during the general audience of the Bishops of England and Wales with Pope Benedict XVI (added emphasis is mine):
We thank you, too, for your constant encouragement to us through the initiatives of the Year of St Paul and the Year for Priests. In our different dioceses we have built on these invitations both in the deeper appreciation of the Word of God and of the gift of the Eucharist. At this time we appreciate your concern for the dignity and reverence with which the Mass is celebrated. This is a central part of the life of every priest and bishop and we are committed to constant effort in this regard. In particular the new translations of the Roman Missal offer us an opportune moment to deepen our appreciation of the Mass. Through catechesis we can renew our reception of the richness of the Church’s faith through the ages which, in faithfulness, is now handed on to us in these texts.
And from the address of the Holy Father (again, the added emphases are mine):
Your country is well known for its firm commitment to equality of opportunity for all members of society. Yet as you have rightly pointed out, the effect of some of the legislation designed to achieve this goal has been to impose unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs. In some respects it actually violates the natural law upon which the equality of all human beings is grounded and by which it is guaranteed. I urge you as Pastors to ensure that the Church’s moral teaching be always presented in its entirety and convincingly defended. Fidelity to the Gospel in no way restricts the freedom of others – on the contrary, it serves their freedom by offering them the truth....

If the full saving message of Christ is to be presented effectively and convincingly to the world, the Catholic community in your country needs to speak with a united voice. This requires not only you, the Bishops, but also priests, teachers, catechists, writers – in short all who are engaged in the task of communicating the Gospel – to be attentive to the promptings of the Spirit, who guides the whole Church into the truth, gathers her into unity and inspires her with missionary zeal.

Make it your concern, then, to draw on the considerable gifts of the lay faithful in England and Wales and see that they are equipped to hand on the faith to new generations comprehensively, accurately, and with a keen awareness that in so doing they are playing their part in the Church’s mission. In a social milieu that encourages the expression of a variety of opinions on every question that arises, it is important to recognize dissent for what it is, and not to mistake it for a mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate. It is the truth revealed through Scripture and Tradition and articulated by the Church’s Magisterium that sets us free.
The reference to the breaching of natural law by proposed equalities legislation has, I think, interesting implications, suggesting that they should be resisted as a matter of defence of human rights. The reference to recognising dissent for what it is has, I think, a clear reference to some recent developments!

Another interesting aspect of Pope Benedict's address is the extent to which it refers to and draws on the teaching/example of Cardinal John Henry Newman. I think we should clearly expect this to be the leit-motif of the forthcoming visit to Britain by the Pope. He also makes reference to the signs of a living Catholic faith in Britain - his examples being quite interesting: the enthusiasm surrounding the visit of the relics of St Therese, the interest in the forthcoming beatification of Cardinal Newman and the enthusiasm of young people to take part in pilgrimages and the World Youth Days.

As usual, I encourage you to read the whole text of both addresses, which you can do by following the links in the text above. My quotation from Archbishop Nichols is accurate, and not misleading, but I do suggest that you read the whole to put it into the context of a wider range of questions to which Archbishop Nichols refers.

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