Emphasis on penance and the need for reconciliation
THE FAITHFUL of Britain were asked by ' the Pope in Liverpool on Sunday, to give greater emphasis to the sacrament of penance and to seek reconciliation with other Christians in an urgent effort to, overcome the sin of disunity. This was the main thrust of his homily in Liverpool's Catholic cathedral.
"On this day of Pentecost, I appeal to all the faithful of Britain — and to the other members of the Church who may hear my voice or readmy words: dearly beloved, let us give greater emphasis to the sacrament of penance in our own lives", Pope John Paul said.
He referred to his first Encyclical, Redemptor Hominis, and its message of reconciliation between Christ and the penitent, and he told priests, particularly, how closely they could be associated with the Saviour in this work. "For lack of time, certain worthy activities may have to be abandoned or postponed, but not the con.fessional", he emphasised.
But though reconciliation was his main subject. it was once again the theme of Christian unity that seemed to be uppermost in his mind and he skilfully linked the two topics. "As Christians today strive to be sources of reconciliation in the world, they feel the need, perhaps more urgently than ever before, to be fully reconciled among themselves. For the sin of disunity among Christians, which has been with us for centuries, weighs heavily upon the church", he said.
The Vatican Council, had emphasised the seriousness of the sin when it had said that "This discord openly contradicts the will of Christ".
He went on: "Restoration of unity among Christmas is one of the main concerns of the Church in the last part of the twentieth century." It was a task for us all, he said. No one could claim exemption from such a responsibility: all could contribute.
"All are called to that interior conversion which is the essential condition for ecumenism" Pope John Paul said.
It was indeed another great day for ecumenism, to add to the growing triumph of Canterbury the day before. For the first time ever, a congregation in the Catholic cathedral was able to participate simultaneously in a service in Liverpool's Anglican cathedral, which took place half an hour earlier than the papal mass at the Metropolitan cathedral. The Anglican service was relayed to the Catholic cathedral over a public address system.
At the Metropolitan cathedral every one of the 2,500 seats had been filled two hours or more before the Pope was due to arrive. The long wait was, however, put to constructive use with a short service of prayer and praise, and further time was taken up with a thorough rehearsal of the congregational music for the papal mass. This was just as well, as the Pope was more than half an hour behind schedule.
Glancing back from my place in the porch. I could see the people of Liverpool expectantly lining both sides of Hope Street. the road which links the Anglican and Catholic cathedrals (its name has nothing to do with the ecumenical cause: it is just a happy coincidence).
At 6pm the bells of the metropolitan cathedral began to toll, and five minutes later the familiar shape of the Popemobile appeared at the end of Hope Street.
The first group to enter the cathedral were Bishop David Sheppard, the Anglican bishop of Liverpool, and several Anglican clergy. The enthusiastic applause that greeted their arrival was living proof of the warmth of Catholic/Anglican relations in Liverpool.
As the moment for the Pope's arrival drew nearer, members of the congregation began to turn round in their seats, in the hope of getting a good view of him as he entered the main door. When he finally arrived, there was tumultuous applause, and people stood on their seats to take photographs as he proceeded up the nave. .
Concelebrating Mass with Pope John Paul were Cardinal Hume, Archbishop Worlock of Liverpool, the Apostolic ProNuncio. Archbishop Bruno Heim, Cardinal Casaroli, Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tomas 0 Fiaich of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, Cardinal Nsubuga of Kampala, Uganda, Archbishop Dermot Ryan of Dublin, and most of the English and Welsh hierarchy.
After the Mass, the Pope was almost ignominiously hustled out of the cathedral with clergy, crowds and security men, to address the hundreds of young people waiting for him outside. It was exactly 9 pm and the bells began tolling again.
A piece of sculpture in metal and wood depicting peace and reconciliation was presented to the Pope. It was made by a group of six pupils at St Kevin's boys' school Kirkby. More than a foot high, and made of copper and brass, it depicted figures in silhouette holding hands upstretched and reaching out to a celtic-type cross. It was presented by one of the boys from the school.
The Pope spoke some brief words of encouragement and then said: "Now, you should sing". Clergy, bishops and young people swayed from side to side as they sang "Bind us together, Lord."
The Pope stayed for about 15 minutes before boarding the Popemobile to go to Archbishop's House in the Liverpool suburbs.