Pastoral Letter for Sunday 12 September 2010

Pastoral Letter to be read in all Churches and Chapels of the Archdiocese of Liverpool on the  twenty-fourth Sunday in the Year, 12 September 2010.

The visit of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI

My dear People.

Let the word of the Lord, the Gospel of the Lord we have just received prepare our hearts and minds for these coming days of the visit of the Holy Father. He comes to us as one whom, as it was with St Paul, the Lord has considered trustworthy to be appointed to his ministry. That is why only through the Holy Spirit we appreciate the word his presence among us will be. The challenge we rejoice to receive is this: to pray these coming days and ponder them in our hearts.

Now, may I suggest some of the blessings prepared for us. Thanks be to God the scriptures we receive enable us to resist any temptation to forget Abraham, Isaac, Israel. We are blest to know: we cannot understand who we are as followers of Jesus of Nazareth without taking to heart complex events that took place in and around the Holy Land. That is why it is so good that our Cathedral includes Sean Rice's bronze statue of Abraham, whom we acclaim as our father in faith and whom both Jews and Muslims remember with honour. Pope Benedict comes to us when so many families are deeply affected by what is happening in Afghanistan. And the reality which is Afghanistan is woven into the story of the whole Middle East. For very many years our country has been involved in that part of the world. And it is wise to remember this: the story of the British Empire, of the Commonwealth ties us into the history and the well-being of so many races and peoples and religions. And that is closely connected with immigration to this country. For the Pope to meet the Queen of this country, to speak with our political leaders is complex indeed. And it is worth remembering: when Pope John Paul visited us we were at war with Argentina in the South Atlantic.

Because of the complexity of our society, where Christians, Jews, Muslims and those of many other religions find their home, the Pope will meet with Jews, Muslims and those of other religions. He will do so especially as they all seek, because of their fidelity to the deepest aspects of their life, to be a blessing in every aspect of human flourishing, both here at home and in the councils of the nations.

But shining through all of the Holy Father's teaching is this fact: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.’ The way we read that great story of the two sons is this: When we, the younger brothers and sisters wandered away into far countries, even as far as hell, the first, well-beloved only Son, in the words of Pope Benedict's first homily as Bishop of Rome, leapt to his feet. And in the words of Cardinal Newman's hymn: ‘O loving wisdom of our God, when all was sin and shame, a second Adam to the fight and to the rescue came.’

That is why two events will be the abiding blessing of Pope Benedict's visit. The first: the Mass he will celebrate in Westminster's wonderful Cathedral, dedicated to the precious Blood of our Most Holy Redeemer. That Mass will be attended by representatives of our whole Catholic family and the Mass will be a pondering of the wonder of the blood of the Lamb, shed for all so that sins may be forgiven.

The second event: Birmingham, where as their parish priest, he served the poorest of the poor who then lined the streets in their thousands for his funeral, will be the fitting setting for the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman. And that event gathers all of us here into these coming days. For Dominic Barberi was God's chosen instrument in accompanying John Henry Newman into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. That is why only two days after confirming that he would come to England, Pope Benedict spoke of Blessed Dominic to the thousands at his General Audience in Rome. And Dominic's shrine is here among us. We must be very grateful that, at that shrine, Father Peter Hannah and the people of the Parish of St Anne, and Blessed Dominic, St Helens, will celebrate their Sunday Mass a week today at 10.00 am; that is the same time as the Mass of Beatification in Birmingham. I know others will be very welcome.

Many things may concern us in the coming days: the weather; the quality of coverage by the media; the arrangements for travel and food and health and safety. But in the end only one question matters and the yes to that question, thanks to the Holy Spirit, is not in doubt: Will we pray these coming days?

I end with this prayer: it is Cardinal Newman's translation of the same Latin prayer, Anima Christi, that is the origin of the hymn Soul of my Saviour. Pray it now in your heart for yourself, for each other, for our Holy Father:

Petitions to our Holy Redeemer.

Soul of Christ, be my sanctification;
Body of Christ, be my salvation;
Blood of Christ, fill all my veins;
Water of Christ's side, wash out my stains;
Passion of Christ, my comfort be;
O good Jesus, listen to me;
in thy wounds I fain would hide;
ne'er to be parted from thy side;
guard me, should the foe assail me;
call me when my life shall fail me;
bid me come to thee above,
with thy saints to sing thy love,
world without end. Amen.

+ Patrick Kelly
Archbishop of Liverpool