Faith cannot be private, says new archbishop of Westminster.
By Simon Caldwell
LONDON (CNS) – Archbishop Vincent Nichols, installed as the Archbishop of Westminster during a May 21 Mass in Westminster Cathedral, urged Catholics to confidently express their beliefs.
“Faith is never a solitary activity, nor can it be simply private,” the archbishop said in his homily. “Faith in Christ always draws us into a community and has a public dimension.”
Archbishop Nichols, 63, succeeded Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, 76. The newly installed archbishop, who had served as head of the Archdiocese of Birmingham since 2000, was also elected in April as president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.
In his address to a congregation of more than 2,000, Archbishop Nichols said the Christian community “reaches beyond ethnicity, cultural differences and social division, opening for us a vision of ourselves and of our society, as having a single source and a single fulfillment.”
“Faith builds itself in community and it expresses itself in action,” he added. “As a society, if we are to build on this gift of faith, we must respect its outward expression not only in honouring individual consciences but also in respecting the institutional integrity of the communities of faith in what they bring to public service and to the common good.”
The archbishop, who in recent years has been at the centre of high-profile campaigns in defence of publicly funded Catholic schools and adoption agencies, challenged people to work together even in areas where they do not agree.
“Let us be a society in which we genuinely listen to each other, in which sincere disagreement is not made out to be insult or harassment, in which reasoned principles are not construed as prejudice and in which we are prepared to attribute to each other the best and not the worst of motives,” he said.
Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury addressed Archbishop Nichols on behalf of the Church of England, saying that closer relations were “a sign that we all recognise common challenges and a need to pray and act together.”
“The Roman Catholic and Anglican communities in England and Wales have the God-given task, along with all our other brothers and sisters in the faith, of making the good news of Jesus compelling and attractive to a generation deeply in need of hope and meaning, in need of something they can trust with all their hearts,” Archbishop Williams said.
Archbishop Nichols was born in Crosby, England, and was educated by the Christian Brothers. He entered the priesthood in Rome in 1963 and was ordained in 1969. He spent 18 years in London as general secretary of the bishops’ conference and later as an auxiliary bishop in Westminster under the late Cardinal George Basil Hume.
Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor is the first archbishop of Westminster since the restoration of the English and Welsh hierarchy in 1850 who did not die in office.
In his remarks at the end of the Mass, the cardinal said he expected his successor to face many battles to “sustain our Christian community in our secular society.”
The Archdiocese of Westminster covers most of London north of the Thames River and has a Catholic population of about 400,000 people served by more than 300 priests in 219 parishes.