Archbishop Vincent Nichols was due to fly out to Rome on Wednesday, to take part in two days of meetings before Saturday's Consistory, at which he will be made a cardinal by Pope Francis. During a press conference at Archbishops House, Westminster yesterday, The Cardinal- elect said he had been very touched by the number of messages of support from all sections of society since the announcement of his nomination was made. He said his new role will help to strengthen the faith of all faith communities in Britain today.
Receiving the news had been a very exciting moment, he said. "As a youngster growing up in Liverpool it is something I never imagined." As young priest Nichols made a study of St John Fisher who was made a cardinal shortly before he was executed. One journalist asked him whether he feared execution. He responded by saying that a cardinal's robes are red - the colour of blood - signifying that he is prepared to give his whole life to God. "I don't expect to end in prison but I do realise it is the situation Christians all over the world - particularly the Middle East and Syria.
The Archbishop noted that Pope Francis has chosen cardinals who have lived and experienced poverty; and many of them come from large multicultural cities of the world reflecting Pope Francis concern. In recent press interviews Archbishop Nichols has said it is 'a disgrace' that welfare cuts in the UK are leaving people in serious poverty. Asked about this at the press conference he said: "yes - there must be something wrong with a system in which in wealthy country people are living in such poverty. The government is always talking about tomorrow."
Another reporter asked whether his lifestyle would change as be becomes a 'prince of the Church', Nichols responded that he does not receive a salary, does help with the washing up and cooking and doesn't think he will change much.
What Pope Francis is asking us is for a broader horizons and a generous heart, he said. "In practice my horizons are my diocese, the Bishops conference where we have constant contact with bishops round the world. And now I've been asked to assist in work of Pope."
On social and moral issues he said, a major one is the subject of immigration. "It's perfectly clear if you travel on the tube in the morning or go to a hospital the huge contribution immigrants are making to this country. The idea that they are a drain is false. We should not have a debate based on fear". Another concern, the Archbishop mentioned, is the need for the business community to become much more sensitive to social responsibility - to develop a sense of purpose, to repair and build society.
Asked whether the Church has changed with the election of Pope Francis, Archbishop Nichols said Pope Francis asks us to look at what he does, while with Pope Benedict the focus had been more on what he wrote. "In the modern world now actions are very important " he said. "With Pope Francis his actions centre on the dignity of human person. Thats why people respond to him. ... He's calling us to a more simple way of life and sense of joy. We are all called to be missionary disciples."
At 11am on Saturday morning, Vincent Gerard Nichols, will be created a cardinal in St Peter's Basilica, during the Consistory led by Pope Francis.
To listen to an interview with Archbishop Nichols on the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme click here: https://audioboo.fm/boos/1930085-archbishop-nichols-i-hear-anger-and-despair-over-welfare-system
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