By Rt. Rev. Mgr. Cyril Taylor
I N marked contrast to the colourful and
distinguished assembly which gathered for the laying of the foundation-stone twenty-five years before there was a note of simplicity about the solemn opening of the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral Crypt on Sunday last. One felt it was a truly domestic occasion at which everybody present really belonged.
In 1933. graced by the presence of a Papal Legate in the person Of the Cardinal Archbishop of Armagh. the late Archbishop Downey laid the first stone in the presence of practically the entire hierarchies of the British Isles. with bishops from Ireland and
the continent. numerous mitred abbots and prelates. a host of clergy and religious and some 70.000 of the faithful
On Sunday last one felt the Pastor had gathered his flock around himself in an intimate
act of thanksgiving when Arch bishop Heenan pontificated at
afternoon Mass in the Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows in the presence of 1,500 priests and people representing every parish in the Liverpool Archdiocese,
Only one third of those present had a direct view of the altar, but the ceremonial was conveyed to the rest accommodated in the corresponding chapel of the Crudi• fixion and the adjoining corridor on eight television screens projected on an internal circuit There was no vast procession ot clergy in choir dress and some few priests could be seen occupying places with their parishioners For this function admission was by ticket only and it was plain that those fortunate enough to obtain one felt their sense of responsibility as representatives of the half million Catholics of the archdiocese The tickets had been distributed to the 190 parishes pro rata of the population They came from the city, from the industrial towns, from the coast and tbe country, on foot and by various forms of pub lie and private transport_ Young and old alike were imbued with the same sense of reverence and privilege Instinctively they recognised they were eharine in an historic event
Beyond living memory the brat cathedral project had its origins in the early 1850's when Bishop Goss, co-adjutor to the first Bishop of Liverpool (Dr Brown began 1 Fund for this purpose
Augustus Welby Pugin was retained to prepare plans of a cathedral in the Gothic style of the revival to he sited in St. Domingo Road in the grounds of St. Edward's College, The Lady Chapel was actually completed and now serves as the parish church of Our Lady Immaculate Everton
However the scheme was abaudoned for financial reasons in view of other pressing commitments and Dr. Goss's successor Bishop Bernard O'Reilly applied himself to the urgent nerd of providing a diocesan seminary in accordance with the decrees of the Council of Trent Within the memory of many the present project had its beginnings in 1922 when Archbishop Keating summoned a committee at Mt. Pleasant Convent, opposite the grim pile known as the Hrownlow Hill Workhouse, which was purchased for the site at a cost of C100.000 eight years later
In our time'
Dr. Keating proposed the cathe. dral as a memorial to his predecessor Archbishop Whiteside, with the titular. The Good Shepherd Archbishop Downey, succeeding to the age of 47, fired all the enthusiasm by his slogan: 'A Cathedral in Our Time.He enlarged the committee, secured the nine-acre site and appointed Sir Edwin Lutyens. 0.M.. P.R.A., the outstanding architect of his day. to draw plans.
In 1933 he laid and blessed the stone and four years later offered the first Mass in the partly cornplated crypt. Despite the frustrating years of the war and its aftermath his contagious enthusiasm never flagged throughout his episcopate of a quarter of a century. Pope Pius XI, five years after he had instituted the feast, suggested the titular should be changed to that of Christ the King, and described the undertaking as a bulwark against Bolshevism
The 32 steps
TVO doubt these thoughts surged ' through the mind of these ordinary folk as they descended the thirty-two broad steps to the crypt and came face to face with the fulfilment of Dr. Downey's prophecy of twenty-five years ago: "It will be a noble edifice. not merely in which, hut with which, to worship Christ the King. Here were the massive Penryn 1Cornwall) granite blocks rising stone on stone to a height of thirty feet; the impressive circular windows, the solid teak doors with bronze fittings. the vaulted ceiling comprising 4,000,000 bricks. the vast floor covered in Purbeck marble from Dorset, beneath which lie seven miles of copper tubing to supply the heating.
Here, embracing an area of 60,000 square feet, was surely the largest single church building erected in the kingdom since the
Cal !WI lc revival. The area of Westilinieter Cathedral is 54.000 Square feet.) Here surely was history in the making The first instalment of this vast edifice coming into permanent use on its titular feast of Christ the King. and at that very moment. the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church assenr bled in conclave to elect the Sup reme Pontiff
Inside, a sense of reverential awe pervaded all as the worshippers saf in silence captivated by the simPle beauty arid massive grandeur of the interior. The plain granite altar was devoid of all ornament save the large Crucifix and seven matchine candlesticks executed in brim= and gilt to Lutyen's design. In keeping with the surroundings there was a background of sacred music softly rendered by Fr. Charles W Rigby. a past and present master of the organ. who composed the music for the now nationally famous hymn to Christ the King. " Hail Redeemer. King Divine."
For the Mass Archbishop Heenan and his ministers wore the Roman pontifical vestments made by the Carmelite Sisters of St Helens and worn previously by Archbishop Downey for the first Mass in 1937.
It was a disappointment that the monumental solid gold chalice being made from three hundred 22 carat wedding rings, and commis. stoned two-and-a-half years ago was not completed for the cere. mony There was substituted a large ornate chalice presented try the La Sagesse Convent, Liverpool, to Archbishop Downey on the
occasion ol his sacerdotal salver jubilee in 1932.
The music of the Mass was expertly and exquisitely rendered by the schoio raniorurn from the diocesan seminary at Up Holland conducted by Fr. Anthony Snape and accompanied by Fr. Charles Rigby. The amplification left nothing to be desired, but several of the television screens proved too small for effective reception by people at a distance The Chapel of the Tombs. In cream and gold Travertine, where lie the mortal remains of Dr. Whiteside and 13r. Downey (first and third Archbishops of Liverpool) was sealed off, hut many people availed themselves of this first opportunity of peering through the apertures in the rolling stone gate and paying a tribute to their former pastors.
Outside a benign autumn sun shone down on a crowd of several hundred lining the boundary wall of the site and forlornly hopeful of gaining admittance without a ticket, while the Papal flag wafted bravely flanked on either side by the Union Jack and the Cross of St. George.
MONDAY was women's night, " when the choir of Mt. Pleasant Convent provided the singing, and ruesday evening was given over to University students, senior school pupils and members of youth clubs.
Earlier in the afternoon Archbishop Heenan accompanied more than a hundred aldermen and councillors, with the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Liverpool (Alderman and Mrs. H. Livermore) on a conducted tour of the crypt.
There is an evening for the men. another for the cathedral workers and those actually engaged in the building and one for the general public, and tomorrow (Saturday) there is a Mass for teachers and children of junior schools. The octave concludes on Sunday next when it is expected that same 600 nuns will be present at the con eluding Pontifical Mass in the afternoon.
, It is estimated that between fifteen and twenty thousand people will see the crypt, before it is temporarily closed for further urgent work.
Led by the Canons of the Metropolitan Chapter, some 600 priests and brothers of the Liverpool Archdiocese including representatives of some 15 religious orders venerated the Pallium of Archbishop Heenan in the Metropolitan Cathedral Crypt on Wednesday. The Pontifical Mass which preceded was part of the week's celebrations to mark the opening.
In hi k address the Archbishop referred to the joy all felt in the election of the Supreme Pontiff.
Referring to the Cathedral, his Grace adumbrated that the crypt would come into full use as soon as possible to be the Cathedral Church of the diocese The Archbishop also stated that the next phase of building would be the erection of a choir school to ensure continuance of the liturgy of a very high quality.