Cardinal addresses Conference of Priests

 At the National Conference of Priests, the largest annual gathering of Catholic priests from dioceses of England and Wales, being held this year at Trinity and All Saints College in Leeds, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, in his keynote address this morning asked how, in the alien world in which the Catholic Church finds itself, can it bring good news. "Amid the pain and the brokenness and the alienation" he said, "there is always a rumour of God, a search for the spiritual and for transcendence." His address opened by referring to the market place as "an unforgiving domain", criticising a consumer society in which "a sole reliance on the market place does in the end actually prevent people from... having a firm hold of their lives" and calls upon the Church "to challenge and counter this illusory concept of freedom." In a broad overview, the Cardinal drew attention to what he perceives as "the unease, even anguish, of our Western world" * where individuals seek solace through New Age and occult practices, * where there is an urgent need for society to provide greater stewardship for the care of the environment, * where, in the midst of extraordinary technological advances "the rich get richer - able to possess what we want when we want, and yet in doing so we do not necessarily become happier - and the poor become more numerous and even poorer", * where we are challenged with the meaning and source of life as we are faced with genetic engineering, stem cell research, and cloning. In response to these issues, the Cardinal reminded his audience that "many are beginning to realise that the Judaeo-Christian tradition is possibly the only one that can provide any substantial responses to the questions being posed". He went on to recognise the "particular shame of child abuse that has affected the Catholic Church in our countries" and calls upon the whole Church to "understand more deeply the terrible damage that is done by child abuse, to implement proper procedures for child protection, and to treat allegations properly and to make our communities, as they should be, the safest place for children". The Cardinal then outlined his own strategy for the Church believing that there is the need: * to develop the "prayer life of the Church, the liturgy... so that it comes alive in all its power"; * for Catholics "to belong to some form of small community". "I often think these small communities are the secret for the future of the Church." * for "a large number of people... to have formation in their faith" - "particularly within families"; and finally, * to "reach out to those in need". "It seems it can only be right," he said, "even if we become slightly unpopular, that we stand up for and care for those who are in great need. Referring to traditional morality - both social and sexual, he reflected on marriage and the family believing that "married and family life are being corroded and replaced by a scenario that reveals individuals battling for personal rights and independence". He spoke of the need for the Church to be outward looking in creating small communities of faith where people will be spiritually nourished and can form healthy interdependent relationships. Speaking about the decline in priestly and religious vocations and in practising Catholics, the Cardinal was quick to encourage the priests saying that "the Catholic Church would not fail because 'it has been tried through the ages'.... It is a good time to be a priest. It is a good time for our mission - of that I am convinced." He said some priests had "struggles with boredom, with failure, with celibacy, with discouragement, with fear, with perseverance." "We know our own weaknesses and acknowledge them," and yet we "must continue to strive to build the necessary environments in which our communities may thrive." source: Archbishops House For the full text of the speech click on: The State of the Church

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