Welcome for a homecoming Cardinal

 Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Archbishop of Westminster, who was created Cardinal in Rome last week, was welcomed home in a glittering ceremony at Westminster Cathedral yesterday. A sense of hushed anticipation had been building throughout the Cathedral all afternoon as the congregation took their places. The British government was represented by Paul Murphy, MP, Secretary of State for Wales. The Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Westminster Cllr and Mrs Michael Brahams attended. Among others present were ambassadors, high commissioners, MPs and representatives of other churches and faiths. Buddhist monks in saffron robes, sat near sisters of Mother Teresa in blue and white. There were Rabbis, Moslem and Hindu priests next to representatives of the Salvation Army and Methodists churches. At 5.15 the slow procession of priests and religious monks and nuns, choir, ecumenical guests and bishops began walking slowing towards the sanctuary as the sound of the Grand Organ gradually filled the air. Then things went quiet and the lights were dimmed, as the Archbishops and other senior clergy from the Cathedral proceeded to the main door, where Archbishop Bowen of Southwark (as senior archbishop) formally greeted the Cardinal. Their red robes blazed under the spotlights. As the choir sang Laetatus sum, to a setting by Robert Quinney, the Cardinal kissed the Metropolitan Cross and the Book of Gospels. He then blessed the people with holy water before progressing to the Sanctuary through the darkened church, to the tune of Bruckner's Ecce Sacerdos. At the foot of the Sanctuary the Cardinal lit the Paschal Candle - and within seconds the Sanctuary was bathed in candlelight while the choir sang 'Oh Gracious Light'. The entire Cathedral then filled with light again as the Cardinal placed incense in a brazier and sat in front of the High Alter for the beginning of Sung Vespers. It was a memorable beginning. After the hymns, psalms and prayers, Archbishop Cormac Murphy O'Connor started his first homily at the Cathedral by welcoming everyone present. He then spoke about the consistory in Rome last week. It was, he said: "an extremely moving experience and a wonderful illustration of the Universal Church." Explaining that the word cardinal comes from the Latin word meaning hinge, he said, a cardinal's role was to open the gates of the church to all who wished to enter. "The Church exists for the sake of the world, to point to Christ who is the only source of healing and hope for humanity. The doors of the Church must always be open to anyone who seeks Christ with a sincere heart, for none is beyond the reach of his outstretched arms. The doors must be open, too, to encourage all Christians blessed with the riches of faith to go out into out into secular society to share with others the great good news they have been given and not to dally in the porch." Remembering the many martyrs who died for the Catholic faith in England and Wales over the centuries, the Cardinal prayed that today's disciples of Christ might have the same courage in proclaiming and witnessing to our faith today. He said: "How hard it is to swim against the tide of indifference, and all those forces and temptations that take us away from the path of Christ. Never has there been more need for hope and for meaning as our society has set its sight on other gods and on roads that are not roads to life." Stressing the importance of being open to the Holy Spirit the Cardinal said: "Such a life of striving for perfection must be rooted in prayer ...We must not be just 'Sunday Catholics'. We set our sights high, striving for nothing else than to live our whole lives dedicated to God. There must be no room for shallow religiosity or settling for the mediocre." Referring to Pope John Paul's homily in Rome, he said: "Our Christian communities must become genuine 'schools of prayer' where the meeting of Christ is expressed not just in imploring for help but in thanksgiving, praise, adoration, contemplation, listening and ardent devotion until the heart truly falls in love." In today's society, he said: "there are new opportunities for evangelisation and humbly, simply, bravely, we must undertake the task for which we have been called. We must respond to the call of holiness by committing ourselves to a deeper life of personal prayer. We must commit ourselves to a new creativity in charity. In this way the fire of the Gospel will blaze in our hearts and enlighten the lives of those around us." He concluded: "Yes, the door to Christ is open. Let us go in together for the Lord is truly among us." During the service, Ms Carol Smith read the lesson. Intercessions were read by Joseph Bonner and Sister Rachel Harrington SND from Westminster Diocesan Tribunal. Before the final blessing, the Cardinal said: "Since I arrived in Westminster I have been made to feel so welcome and supported... It seemed that this was were God wanted me to be. Now, returning from Rome as a Cardinal this has felt like a homecoming." As the Cardinal's procession made its way down the aisle to the main door the cathedral resounded to an organ improvisation on the Te Deum played by Robert Quinney. Private celebrations were held at Westminster Hall and Archbishops House. Although it was raining, crowds lingered in the Piazza for more than an hour.

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