Page 8, 1st September 2006

1st September 2006
Page 8
Page 8, 1st September 2006 — HOW TO RENEW THE CHURCH
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Locations: Rome, Brisbane, Lagos, Lima

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HOW TO RENEW THE CHURCH

Iam the 10th Archbishop of Westminster and I cannot help thinking of how different things were when the first Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Nicholas Wiseman, was appointed Archbishop in 1850. He was full of enthusiasm for the renaissance of the Church in England. The re-establishment of the Hierarchy by Pope Pius IX impelled Cardinal Wiseman to write a rather rash letter called Out of the Flaminian Gate. It caused much uproar among the Establishment of Britain at that time. It gave the impression that the Catholic Church was going to come back to its rightful position as the Church in England and displace the Established Church.

Attitudes to Catholics at that time in England can be seen in the view that the Establishment had of converts to Catholicism. In 1873 the Times could thunder that "a statesman who becomes a convert to Roman Catholicism forfeits at once the confidence of the English people... To become a Roman Catholic and remain a thorough Englishman are — it cannot be disguised — incompatible conditions."

Cardinal Wiseman's letter touched this neuralgic point in English consciousness and there was such a strong reaction that he was put on the back foot a little and had to write another letter trying to reassure Protestant England that Continental Catholicism was not about to run roughshod over English sensibilities. His new letter was entitled, An Appeal to the Good Reason and Fairness of the English People. In this he said that the task of the Catholic community was to look after the Catholics, especially the poor Catholics who had come in from other countries and at that time, particularly, from Ireland.

This was much more acceptable than his earlier pastoral letter. It did not upset the Establishment or the equilibrium. So the first of the two strategies, as contained in the first pastoral letter, was the conversion of England, and the second was to look after our own Catholic people. In a sense these understandings governed Catholic life for the next 140 years or so. Thus from 1850 onwards the Catholic Church in England and Wales had for the most part been trying to look after our Catholics. It was the kind of Catholicism which I grew up in. We built our churches, we established our schools, and the Religious Orders flourished. However we were, on the whole, content to remain on the periphery of social or public life in England and Wales. Yes, we prayed for the conversion of England, but it was a bit of a pipe dream and the converts that came were more a token of a dream than the reality.

Today, it is quite clear that things are utterly different. The Catholic community is no longer on the periphery; it can no longer afford to be comfortable or feel safe there. The Catholic Church in England and Wales is at the heart of what it means to be Christian in our two countries, Yes, we share much, thank God, with our fellow Christians, but our voice, our presence and our witness are more important than ever before. In a strange way, the Catholic community, notwithstanding its weaknesses and challenges, punches above its weight and will do so more and more in the years ahead. This is something of the particular Tradition in our lands and how we are called to live out our Communion in the Catholic Church in the particular circumstances of our local churches.

Let me now explore our Mission to this world to which we are sent to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ and the hope and meaning that is at the heart of His Good News. Is it not a strange thing that we, in our Western culture, become richer and able to possess what we want when we want, and yet, in doing so, our society is not necessarily happier? I remember going to South America on numerous occasions when priests from my former diocese were working there. On my return I would contrast the simplicity of life, relative contentment and even the joy of the people in Peru with the lack of so many of these qualities in our own society which seemed to blind us with a surplus of all that glitters. One of my fellow-European cardinals, Cardinal Danneels of Belgium, described us in the so-called developed world as "depressive societies" because we all tend to go around manifesting something of the angst of human existence. It is true that if you get off a plane anywhere in Europe this is what strikes you as you walk through the arrivals hall. How different when one steps off a plane in Lagos, or Lima, where one is immediately struck by the inner joy — despite their difficulties — of the people.

Our world, as the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins reminds us, "is charged with the grandeur of God". So amid the pain and the brokenness and the alienation, there is always a rumour of God, a search for the spiritual and the transcendent. While there are many who may subconsciously try to remove God from their life, there are very many who wish to quench their thirst for real freedom by endeavouring to satisfy their deepest needs.

In some ways, I think, of recent years there has been something of a moral reawakening among a huge number in our society, because they begin to see the issues of life and meaning and the spirituality of a culture are at stake. I recently was able to evoke something of that moral reawakening by talking about the issue of abortion in Britain. There are now nearly 200,000 abortions a year and people are beginning to see that there is something wrong, not just in such a number, but in the implications and consequences of such a society that permits so many. It is not just a question of lowering the age limit, as for us Catholics this is just a step in the total abandonment of abortion. But it is rather a seeing that life begins from its very beginning, and that women need to be offered viable alternatives to abortion. The constraints that many women are put through are just a sad reflection on the kind of community that promotes and presstuises such a solution to unwanted pregnancies.

What is the Church to do in the face of these questions and needs? It was Charles Dickens who spoke of his era as "the best of tirnes and the worst of times". This seems true of the Church too. As we look at the Catholic Church today in our countries, it can be tempting to feel down-hearted. There is a growing concern about the reduction in the number of priests and religious. Congregations in some dioceses have been dwindling quite significantly over the past 40 years, although that has not been the case in my home diocese, largely due to large immigrant communities.

The first and foremost way for renewal and restoration is through the prayer life of the Church, the liturgy. Everyone is called to be holy and that holiness for us can only come from the gift of life given to us in Jesus Christ. "Teach us to pray," said the disciples to Jesus, and the disciples of Jesus in our world continue to make that request our own, Is it not important that our parishes should be schools of prayer in which there are opportunities for people to learn how to pray and to be supported in doing so? Prayer is nourished and sustained through an increased love and appreciation of Holy Scripture and especially the Gospels where Jesus himself speaks to us. Prayer has to be the "ordinary stuff' of our Catholic lives, in homes, in schools, in parishes.

Coupled with prayer is a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Holy Eucharist. Our liturgies should be celebrations that allow people, baptised in the Spirit of God, to rejoice in their faith and to go out strengthened and emboldened to confess it. How often have I been to parishes where the manner of celebration and the participation and reverence of the

people has meant that the whole parish is alive with the Spirit of God and people emerge from the Mass emboldened and encouraged to give witness to Christ in the ordinary events of their life, at home, at work, wherever they are?

Another pillar for building up the Church today to meet the need for mission is the development of community life in our parishes particularly through small communities. It seems to me, and I do not think I exaggerate, that most Catholics in the future, apart from the Sunday Eucharist, will need to belong to some form of small community. It could be the family, yes; it could be any particular parish or diocesan organisation, or the small communities or movements that emerge within any particular local church.

From my nearly 30 years as a bishop,! have tried to develop groups of people within parishes who come together to listen to the Word of God in Scripture, to reflect on their own lives, and to pray. I often think these small communities are the secret of the future of the Church. It is in this context that Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict encourage New Movements, as I do myself. However,! think that new movements will find their rightful place in the Church, where the

parish community itself will be more a movement, what I call a "community of communities".

In stressing the importance of small communities, I don't want to downplay the importance of the parish. But in my experience the large parish community needs the energy and vitality that comes from a variety of smaller communities, both within the parish and across parish boundaries. The parish itself in these days is becoming more flexible. This may be particularly true in large urban parishes where small communities will draw their members from across a city.

While I believe that the presence of small communities in a local church are essential for the vitality of Christian formation and missionary outreach, I would register a note of caution which I take from Paul VI's prophetic instruction Evangelii Nuntiandi (1974). In that document Pope Paul contrasts those small communities in which people come together in order to deepen one another's love for and existence within the life of the Church, with communities which come together in a

spirit of bitter criticism of the Church. The latter stigmatise the Church as "institutional" and set themselves up in opposition as charismatic communities, free from structures and inspired only by the Gospel.

In paragraph 58 of Evangelii Nuntiandi Pope Paul lays out some valuable "marks" of authentic small communities. I think what he says can be equally applied to all forms of ecclesial communities or movements:

• They embrace the Church's outward manifestations, namely her hierarchy and her Sacramental signs; • They come together within the Church and cause the Church to grow; • They are a place of evangelisation; • They seek nourishment in the Word of God and do not allow themselves to be ensnared by political polarisation or fashionable ideologies;

• They avoid the ever-present temptation of a hypercritical attitude and instead seek authenticity and a spirit of collaboration;

• They remain firmly attached to the local Church and the Universal Church, avoiding the danger of becoming isolated within themselves, or of believing themselves to be the only authentic Church of Christ, or the only way to Christ; • They maintain a sincere communion with the parish priests and the local bishop; • They look upon themselves as agents of evangelisation, but recognise that the Church becomes incarnate in other ways than through themselves; II They show themselves to be universal in all things and never sectarian.

If you look at the recent letter from Rome to the Neocatecumenal Way specifically requesting that their members attend Mass at least one Sunday in the month in an ordinary parish, and that they, over a period of two years, bring their manner of receiving Communion into conformity with the Church's universal norms, then I think what Rome is doing in is reflecting something of this consciousness. It is vital as an ecclesial group or small community in the Church to function in a way which reflects the universal character of Catholicism.

Let me recap; the first two aspects of the renewal of life in the Church must, of course, be the prayer life of the Church and secondly the building of community within the Church. To those two priorities I would add another, which is formation in faith.! wonder what we could do in our dioceses to equip and educate in a realistic way those devoted men and women who are our strongest collaborators in our parishes. I know that in most parishes there are parish teams or councils who collaborate with the parish priest in the leadership of the parish. Then today there are many involved in the Liturgy as Eucharistic ministers, readers, in music ministry, and those who are members of different parish organisations.

But it seems to me that there are a large number of people who need to be better informed, educated in their faith. Is it not clear from the Catechism of the Catholic Church that there are four categories which are offered as a "summa", a summary, of the Catholic Faith? These are, "what we believe — the Creed", "what we celebrate — the Sacraments", "how we live — the Commandments" and "Prayer".

There are tools to help us teach more effectively in our parishes. But there is also something else: the need to form people in leadership roles. The development of our parishes demands it.

I want to turn now to the ecclesiology which underpins our Communion and mission. The mission is to go out to the whole world, as Jesus said, "teaching all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. And know I am with you always, even to the end of time." But this mission is based on what we are as Church, as Communion, or to use the original Greek as koirzonia. In a wonderful way the Church understands herself in terms of communion, in terms of relationship, and the foundation of our relationship is with Jesus Christ.

The emphasis on communion, on unity, helps us move beyond any power politics that may emerge between the priesthood of the baptised and the ministerial priesthood when we begin to look at communion and mission and to understand authentic collaboration.

In noting the link between communion and mission in this way, we see the intrinsic "relational" quality of our identity as Christians and indeed as human beings. We exist, and we understand ourselves, in connection to others. This is true in the Church as well as in human society generally. A helpful way I have found of understanding

this is in through the Marian and the Petrine principles of the Church, and how these identify how each of us lives out the universal call to holiness, to participation in Trtnitarian life. For this, I am drawing on the insights of Hans Urs von Balthasar, one of the favourite theologians of both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.

If we think about Jesus's life we know that he gathered around him a group of human individuals — Mary, Peter, the Apostles, Lazarus etc. Historically those whom Jesus gathered around him formed a kind of human constellation making up the beginnings of the Church. But this gathering of individuals around Jesus is not limited to the beginnings of the Church. We believe that the Risen Christ is present throughout history. So those who gathered around Jesus in the Gospels as the human constellation of the Church continue to exist in some form now within the Church. Those chosen by the Lord represent a "principle" or fundamental dimension of Church life which continue in some way the foundational experiences of faith of the people gathered around Jesu.s during his earthly life. The most important of these individuals are of course Mary and Peter. Reflecting on them for a few minutes can help us, I hope, understand how collaboration is to function within the Church and, in particular, any tension that may exist between the ordained and the laity.

The pastoral office given to Peter refers to the hierarchical and institutional dimension of the Church; this is the Petrine principle. Peter receives from Jesus entrustment with the keys of the Kingdom — "You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church." So this dimension of Church life points us to the exercise of Apostolic Office and guarantees in the Church what we might call objective holiness.

So through Apostolic Office, through the ministry entrusted to Peter and the apostles, the Holy Spirit, divine love, comes to all God's people mediated and channeled in Word, teaching and Sacrament. It means that when the sacraments are celebrated, when the Word is preached by an ordained minister we can know that God is communicating his life to His people. The transmission of that life of God does not depend on the holiness of the individual priest, but is guaranteed by Christ in what he has handed on to Peter and the Apostles and those who participate in that ministry.

Alongside this, the Marian dimension manifests the response of human love to divine love. Mary's perfect "yes" of love to God meant that the mystery of Trinitarian life entered into history. Through the womb of Maly Christ became man, and the unique reality of the Church as the Body of Christ spread throughout space and time. At the foot of the Cross, too, Mary became the personal centre of the Church and Mother of all the future disciples of Jesus. The role of Mary then continues in the Church as the principle of personal holiness in the heart of each believer, in the heart of each one of us. For this reason Mary is the first of the disciples of Jesus, not merely because she is the first to wholly respond to the gift of Christ, but also because it is under her that each of us is tutored in our discipleship of Christ. The Marian principle thus refers to the personal response of each believer to the message of Christ.

I think that this is what is meant by the Marian dimension or principle, that the holiness born in the life of Mary is mirrored in the personal holiness of the individual believers throughout time and place. I hope you begin to see where I am going with this. What I want to say is that Apostolic Office, that particular manifestation of Petrine objective holiness, fmds its meaning and its purpose in service of the subjective and personal holiness of Mary as lived by the ordinary believer.

Both the Petrine and the Marian are essential dimensions of the life of the Church and are ordered one to the other. They indicate how we each live out our Communion in the Church and our participation in the Mission of Christ to the world. Ministerial priesthood cannot make sense without a baptised people whom it can serve; similarly the baptised need the ministerial priesthood if they are to fully manifest their high calling. One cannot exist without the other.

Again and again you will find this in parish life. It will help us to move on from the rather barren debates around who exercises power in Church life. Or in harping back to a form of ministry which probably never existed in the first place. When we talk about the laity finding their rightful place I do not really think that is so much about them doing jobs that the ordained shouldn't be doing anyhow. I think it is really an invitation to try to rediscover a path of holiness in the life of each person and for the oniained ministry to try and serve that and call it forth.

This is an edited version of a lecture entitled "Communion and Mission" that the Cardinal will deliver tomorrow in Brisbane, Australia.




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