My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
We have been very blessed indeed by the Visit of Pope Benedict during those four marvellous and unforgettable days. His presence has brought such joy and given a great boost to so many. I am immensely grateful to Her Majesty The Queen for extending the invitation to Pope Benedict to come on a State Visit to the United Kingdom.
There is so much to talk about. But at this point I offer some brief initial reflections.
The Holy Father has given us new heart for our mission. In our Cathedral he spelt out that task. He said we are to be witnesses to the beauty of holiness, to the splendour of the truth and to the joy and freedom born of a living relationship with Christ.
We have glimpsed the beauty of holiness especially in the moments of prayer during this Visit. The holiness of God is reflected in the reverence shown in the liturgies, in the actions of the Mass, in the music and song we have offered and most vividly in the silence of prayer. The beauty of this holiness permeates us from within as ‘heart speaks unto heart’. I will never forget the richness of the silence of 80,000 people at prayer before the Blessed Sacrament in Hyde Park. I hope every celebration of Mass contains times of shared silence in which we can draw close to the Lord.
We witness best to the splendour of the truth of our faith when we follow the example given by Pope Benedict. In speaking of our faith he was always so gentle and courteous, so sensitive to the achievements and anxieties of his listeners, so clear and reasoned in presenting difficult points, so humble and open-hearted. We must strive for these same qualities when speaking about our faith, in witnessing to its truth.
The Holy Father has also asked us to witness to the joy and freedom born of a living relationship with Christ. He certainly did so himself, with his own serenity and unfailing generosity of response to both individuals and great crowds. We can do the same, day by day, as long as our focus remains on the Lord and, particularly, in his power to forgive and heal us. We find our joy and freedom in the saving sacrifice of Christ. From it we draw the strength to be generous and self-sacrificing ourselves. Young people, too, gave witness to this joy and freedom. Outside our Cathedral they exclaimed their desire to be saints in the third millennium! Their pathway will be that of heartfelt prayer and generous service.
With the blessings of this Visit we can be more confident in our faith and more ready to speak about it and let it be seen each day. A small step we can all take is to be quicker to say to others that we will pray for them, especially to those in distress. Prayer is the first fruit of faith in the Lord and we grow so much by giving prayer its place in our homes and in our hearts. Even the simple step of more regularly using the greeting ‘God bless you’, gently and naturally, would make a difference to the tone we set in our daily lives as would the more frequent use of the Sign of the Cross. Making faith visible is so much a part of the invitation the Holy Father has extended to us all.
In these ways we can begin to respond to the urging of the Holy Father ‘that the Catholics of this land will become ever more conscious of their dignity as a priestly people, called to consecrate the world to God through lives of faith and holiness.’
I thank everyone who worked so hard in preparation for this Visit, through difficulties, doubts and criticism. I thank all who came to show their love for the Holy Father. Travelling with the Holy Father in the Popemobile gave me a unique experience of the joy, delight and love in the faces of so many. I thank God for our Pope and for all the blessings of this Visit from which we have so much to ponder and learn for a long time to come.
Saturday, 25 September 2010
The Archbishop of Westminster's pastoral letter to be read out at Mass in his diocese this weekend: