Birmingham: Archbishop Nichols on the tsunami disaster

 Archbishop Vincent Nichols celebrated the 11am Mass, in St Chad's Cathedral, on Sunday, for all the victims and survivors of the earthquake in South East Asia that occurred on Box Day 2004. During his homily the Archbishop of Birmingham said: "No words of mine this morning can adequately describe the calamity that has befallen the countries of the Indian Ocean. "No words of mine can express the shock, trauma and anguish of those caught up in the effects of the tidal waves, those bereaved and mourning their dead, those who have lost all their means of livelihood, those whose entire towns have been destroyed. "We have also seen the compassion and instinctive generosity of people everywhere, in response to this catastrophe. Villages near to the disaster areas have been sharing their food and their homes. Churches, temples, convents are there for everyone. "All of these events serve to remind us of our fragility. Our achievements are so limited, especially in the face of the awesome power of the natural world. All we have and achieve can be wiped out in a few brief moments and we are powerless to stop it. "So questions arise about who or where does the ultimate power rest. If not us, then where is the power to cope with, change or prevent events such as these? Where is the all-powerful and why do these natural tragedies occur? "At these moments, people right round the Indian ocean raise their minds, hearts and voices in prayer. Hindus, Buddhists, Moslems, and Christians pray in their grief, in their sorrow and in thanksgiving for personal escape or rescue. Like us, they turn to God, to the 'Transcendent', in prayer especially in this time of need. "Our Christian faith shapes the prayer we offer. Our faith teaches us about the God to whom we pray. Indeed, we know that in Christ Jesus we are being given the truth about God, for to see him is to see the Father. Our faith tutors us, in moments such as these, to a quite particular belief in God. "And the truth we are given is quite astonishing, quite revolutionary. This truth requires of us, again and again, to refashion our hearts so that we do not misunderstand, do not let go of the gift we have been given. "St John tells us: a light that shines in the darkness. A light that darkness could not overpower. God is light. But God is a certain kind of light. God is not a searchlight, a headlight, such as we might use to find our way, and in doing so dazzle and blind others. The light of God does not force itself or spotlight our weaknesses. "No, God's light is less forceful, more inviting. God is a light that gently illuminates our way, that slowly dawns, that gradually brings warmth. God's light can penetrate everywhere, even the darkest tragedy. "God's light is most like love and, as we have seen over and over again, disaster does not wipe out love: rather it intensifies it, in loss, in relief, in effort. Disasters do not wipe out faith anymore than they wipe out love. Rather, the light of love, the light of God glows more persistently in that awful darkness. It shines in human heroism, generosity, selflessness and courage. "Death, of course, is the ultimate disaster. But come it will. That is 100% certain. But no matter how death comes, whether it is early, in the first months or years of a life, whether it comes in the full vigour of adulthood, or slowly after a long decline; whether it comes in a sudden physical collapse or in a calamity such as we have just seen, it has no power to rob us of our God given grace, our destiny to be with God for all eternity." Archbishop Nichols ended: "Today we pray for all who have died in the tragedy of the earthquake and tidal waves. We pray for all who mourn. We pray for all who are struggling to survive and for all who are actively engaged in the aid effort. May they sense God's abiding presence. May they know the light of His love, present within them and among them. May they hold on, in confidence, to the 'grace', the dignity that is theirs as children of God. May we know them to be our brothers and sisters and continue to support them with our love and our generosity."

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