Archbishop Nichols urges Catholics to engage with society

Archbishop Vincent Nichols

Archbishop Vincent Nichols

A packed Brentwood Cathedral applauded an upbeat message from Archbishop Vincent Nichols at his Lenten lecture last Wednesday.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols, told an audience of over 700 at Brentwood Cathedral this week that Christianity and the Catholic faith were "fundamental to what it is to be human".

He was giving the inaugural Brentwood Cathedral Lenten Lecture on the topic of 'Living our Catholic faith in a secular culture'.

He prefaced his lecture by saying that he did not subscribe to the view that Catholics have been victimised. "We have challenges to face but we are not singled out for aggressive treatment or subtle violence," he said. "We do ourselves no favours by playing that card - there are a lot of things going for the Church."

The Archbishop said that the Pope's visit to the UK last September had  "changed everything". He said: "There is a much greater hearing for the Church now and it has opened up a new enthusiasm ecumenically and in terms of our relations with other faiths."

The visit, he said, "has given us a new impetus and a new focus for our faith. We must now witness that faith with our head, our hands and our heart. Through the gift of faith we bring a richer understanding of what it is to be human."

Archbishop Nichols (copyright Dr Graham Hillman)He dismissed narrower views of humans as mere consumers or 'unencumbered' individuals as "a very impoverished view of what it is to be human. These contemporary accounts are insufficient when put against our Christian faith and our understanding of the human condition. We are fundamentally bound to each other. No-one comes into this world in isolation from one and other. Throughout our lives relationships form who we are and who we become," said the Archbishop, adding "we are essentially and fruitfully bound to each other."

It is, he added, not through consumerism but through these relationships with others that we reach fulfilment.

He urged the audience to "inspire in others an admiration of the virtues that spring from the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity".

Translating these for modern times, he highlighted prudence, courage, justice and temperance as being key when practising the Christian message in modern society. He said that these values "belong to all humanity and are an important part of rebuilding trust in our own society".

This crucial trust had been lost or damaged in many walks of life he said, highlighting financial institutions, politics and the church as three areas where rebuilding of trust was needed.

"Use these virtues as our witness," he urged the audience, "because by doing so we can show the many others that also live by these virtues that they are not far from the life of a disciple of Christ."

The Lenten Lecture is the brainchild of Cathedral Dean Fr Martin Boland who is aiming to establish it as an annual event and hailed the inaugural event as a huge success: "To fill the Cathedral with over 700 people shows that there is a real desire to deepen and broaden our understanding of what it is to be a Catholic in modern Britain. The Archbishop was upbeat, taking many examples from the Pope's visit to remind and inspire us, but also challenging us to live our faith in all aspects of our daily lives."

The audience came from parishes all over Essex and East London as well as other churches in the Brentwood area.

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