Pastoral Letter to be read in all churches and chapels of the Archdiocese of Liverpool on the Second Sunday of Lent, 24 February 2013.
My dear People,
‘I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.’ Those were Saint Paul’s words when he said his final farewell to the Christians of Ephesus.
I am certain they are words which Pope Benedict could make his own at seven o’clock our time on Thursday evening when he lays aside his ministry as Bishop of Rome, as Pope: ‘I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.’
Or to put it another way, borrowing words this time from Blessed John Henry Newman whom Pope Benedict beatified during his visit to this country:
Pope Benedict has opened up for us the ‘loving wisdom’, the ‘wisest love of God’ who is the Holiest. And he summed up that loving wisdom, that wisest love in the very first page of his first letter addressed to the whole church: Deus Caritas Est: God is love. He wrote:
‘Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.’
And there is the whole purpose of this joyful season of Lent: to bring us to the Great Week, Holy Week when we remember and enter into our Lord’s Saving Passion and Glorious Resurrection, by which the pride of the ancient foe, the father of lies, is vanquished. We shall in heart and mind, in word and song celebrate once more the mystery of our redemption in Christ, our liberation from all that is sin and death.
I will be principal celebrant at Mass on Thursday night of this coming week, 28th February, at 7.00 in the Cathedral to accompany our Holy Father into retirement. All are welcome.
You are all aware I am making a similar journey myself. This Mass will be one of the last I celebrate in the Cathedral; I hope to be able to be principal celebrant at the Mass of Chrism on the Wednesday Evening of Holy Week. Both Masses will simply be those of the day. You thanked me more than abundantly last year when on 18th February we praised God for the 50 years of my life and ministry as a priest.
This Thursday’s Lenten Day Mass and the Chrism Mass say all that remains to be said. For Saint Paul gave to every priest, every Bishop, every Pope a clear charter ‘For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.’
In this my last pastoral letter I promise: I will always thank God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when I pray for you, because I have seen your faith in Christ Jesus and the love you have for all the saints because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.
Please make your own these words from the Second letter of Saint Peter, with which I ended a letter of thanks to Pope Benedict when I heard of his so wise, faithful and selfless decision:
‘May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.’
Yours devotedly in Christ,
Archbishop of Liverpool