London: Cardinal Cormac visits Opus Dei parish

 Catholics must be like St Thomas More, in seeking spiritual support to stand up for their faith in the modern world, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor told parishioners in Swiss Cottage on Sunday. Cardinal Cormac said the danger Catholics in Britain face today is "dilution" more than "persecution". And he insisted that he was very optimistic about the future of the faith in the United Kingdom, despite the many obstacles and difficulties which exist. The Cardinal had gone to St Thomas More church in North-West London to celebrate the parish's 70th anniversary and the 40th anniversary of the current church building, which replaced the original 1938 construction. He commented on the youth, dynamism and life he encountered in the parish, which has been under the pastoral care of Opus Dei since 2005. He thanked particularly its parish priest Fr Gerard Sheehan for his work in the parish in these three years. St Thomas More, he said, stood up bravely for the Church when others deserted it because of his deep spiritual life based on prayer, meditation on Scripture and the Eucharist. We too, said the Cardinal, have to go to the same "spiritual sources" to meet the challenges of our time and not to allow our faith to be diluted by secularism. The Cardinal was due to go that afternoon to Sydney for the World Youth Day celebrations with the Pope, but he still managed to find time to lead the parish celebrations. As he looked around the church, he commented with pleasure on the number of young people he saw. But it was also a day to remember the long-standing commitment of older parishioners, two of whom were awarded a bene merenti from the Holy Father. Mrs Jackie Simmons, a French woman who belonged to the parish even before its current building was constructed, has been the planned-giving coordinator for decades until her recent retirement from the job. Fr Sheehan commented on her meticulous care and attention to detail in her years of dedication to this task. Mrs Heidi Ram has been, in the words of Fr Sheehan, a "pillar of the parish" for many years. "Heidi is Swiss," Fr Sheehan said, "and every parish should have a Swiss woman", commenting on her "can do" attitude and organisational ability.

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