IN A LETTER on this page Professor David Jowitt describes his sense of disorientation on arriving in Britain after a long stay in Africa. Much of what he sees dismays him. The country, and Western secular society in general, seems to be in inexorable decline. But he still sees some hope for Britain. Sitting inside Westminster Cathedral — properly known as the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Most Precious Blood — he is struck by the diversity and spiritual fervour of the congregation.
"And who would not have hope," he concludes, "and a profound sense of the divine reality, in the presence of that huge crowd of worshippers of different ages and races, under those lighted chandeliers, those dark walls, that thundering organ, and that gigantic crucifix?"
Professor Jowitt's reflections demonstrate the significance of Westminster Cathedral, not only for the spiritual life of Catholics in England and Wales, but for the spiritual life of our nation. Our mother church is an inestimable treasure: it is one of only a handful of British buildings that can inspire, and nurture, the Catholic faith. Through its renowned choir and striking architecture it reaches out beyond the boundaries of the Church and touches those who search for God through beauty.
The annual deficit of £250,000 should concern everyone who has ever prayed within the cathedral's dark walls. The cathedral administrator Mgr Mark Langham says that as things now stand the cathedral's finances are "a riddle that cannot be solved". Westminster Cathedral is too important for us, and for our nation, for that to remain the case.
We encourage Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor to propose an annual, national collection for the upkeep of the cathedral. Although there may be some early resistance, we are convinced that the faithful will soon recognise that this treasure belongs not only to the Archdiocese of Westminster but to all the Catholics of England and Wales.