Vatican City, Dec 8, 2009 (CNA) - In his first Advent reflection for Pope Benedict XVI and members of the Roman Curia, Father Raniero Cantalamessa, Preacher of the Pontifical Household, warned that a threat exists today that, “because of the low number of priests, affects the clergy and the entire Church: it’s called frenetic activism.”
Using the writings of Abbot Chautard as inspiration for his reflection, Father Cantalamessa said that in order to understand how to follow Christ, one must journey down a path founded upon “a personal relationship that is full of trust and friendship with the person of Jesus,” who is the soul of every priesthood.
Referring to Chautard’s book, “The Soul of Every Apostolate,” the papal preacher underscored that the work was published just a few years before Vatican II, “in a period in which there was great enthusiasm for parish work.” The book addressed “the heart of the problem, denouncing the danger of an empty activism.”
Chautard wrote: “God wants Jesus to be life of our works.” For this reason, in reflecting on the need for priests to be servers of Christ, Father Cantalamessa remarked, “On the invisible passport of the priest where ‘profession’ is listed, one ought to read: servant of Jesus Christ’.”
The essential service of the priest to the Lord Jesus is thus “to continue His work in the world,” by being a witness to the truth, the saving will and the love of God for man.”
According to L’Osservatore Romano, Father Cantalamessa also explained that communicating Christ to others does not mean being his successors, as “Jesus has no successors, because He is not dead, He is alive.”
In his work the priest must strive to make man become friends with God, he continued, citing the passage in which the Lord calls His disciples “friends” and not servants.
He concluded his reflection emphasizing the importance of prayer in the life of the priest, as only with an intense prayer life can a priest be fully dedicated to his pastoral work.
Limerick, Ireland, Dec 8, 2009 (CNA) - Irish bishop Donal Murray of Limerick is traveling to Rome with a delegation of Irish bishops to meet with Pope Benedict XVI and members of the Curia regarding the “painful situation of the Church in Ireland,” the BBC reports. Following a letter to parishioners in his diocese, it is believed that Bishop Murray will offer the Pope his resignation.
According to L'Osservatore Romano, Fr. Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, said that the Irish delegation and the Holy Father will meet on Friday “to be briefed and to evaluate the painful situation of the Church in Ireland, following the recent publication of the Murphy Commission Report.”
The Murphy report, which was published on Nov. 26, is a state-sponsored investigation into the Catholic Church's handling of clerical abuse. The report states that Bishop Murray acted “inexcusably” by not thoroughly investigating Fr. Tom Naughton when Murray was bishop of Dublin. Fr. Naughton has since admitted to a series of serious sex offenses.
This past Sunday, a letter from Bishop Murray, 69, asked parishioners to pray for him as “he is reflecting on the decision that he now has to make.” The letter also said that he “is acutely aware of the pain and anguish that has been experienced and expressed in the last week.”
According to the BBC, Cardinal Seán Brady, president of the Irish Conference of Bishops, said that Bishop Murray had “been in contact with me, as you know he is considering his position and hopes to be in a position to comment soon.” “I'm confident Bishop Donal will do the right thing," Cardinal Brady added.
Trenton, N.J., Dec 8, 2009 (CNA) - As the New Jersey legislature considers whether to recognize same-sex “marriage” before a sympathetic governor leaves office, the New Jersey Catholic Conference has testified that the “great truth” about marriage as a union of husband and wife is not a religious doctrine but “a fact of human nature.”
The New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday was open for an expected six hours of testimony on the proposal.
Patrick Brannigan, executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference (NJCC), sent to CNA a copy of the testimony he intended to deliver before the committee.
“The Catholic Church has always taught for 2000 years that marriage is the union of one man and one woman as husband and wife,” Brannigan’s testimony began. “This great truth about marriage is not some obscure doctrinal fine point but a fact of human nature, recognized from time immemorial by people of virtually every faith and culture.”
Brannigan explained that Catholic teaching holds that man and woman are equal, different from each other but created for each other.
“This complementarity, including sexual difference, draws them together in a mutually loving union,” he added.
Noting that people with same-sex attractions have fundamental human rights, he said that it is not unjust discrimination to “treat different things differently.”
“Same-sex unions are not, in fact, the same thing as the union of one man and one woman in marriage,” Brannigan testified.
He pointed out that New Jersey’s Civil Union Act already provides “practical rights, benefits and protections” for those in non-marital unions.
The Star-Ledger reports that the measure is expected to pass the Senate Judiciary Committee, though chairman Sen. Paul Sarlo, a Democrat, has said he will vote against it.
Neither Democrats nor Republicans are united in support of or opposition to the proposal, reports say.
The bill could come before the full Senate for a vote as early as Thursday. It is not clear how the Senate will vote.
Senate President Richard Codey, a Democrat from Essex, said supporters and opponents of the bill have been working “furiously.”
“Legislative offices are extremely busy with phone calls,” he said.
The Star-Ledger reports that advocates of same-sex “marriage” see the bill as a last stand. While outgoing Gov. John Corzine, a Democrat, has said he is prepared to sign it, Governor-elect Chris Christie, a Republican, has said he will veto any such legislation that comes to his desk.
In late November the Catholic bishops of New Jersey asked pastors to read to their congregations a letter on marriage.
“As Catholics, we must not stand by in silence in the face of the many challenges that threaten marriage and, in turn, children and the public good,” the bishops wrote in their letter. “We must not shirk from our responsibility.”
Rome, Italy, Dec 8, 2009 (CNA) - The Catholic Church in Italy is preparing for Christmas with a meeting of ecclesiastical, scientific and cultural leaders to discuss “the question of God.”
The international event, organized by the Italian bishops’ conference, will be held from Dec. 10 to 12.
Titled “God today: with Him or without Him, that changes everything,” its attendees will hear from bishops, philosophers, theologians, scientists, artists, musicians, poets, scholars, and men and women of different faiths.
The originator of the event, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, will be one of the speakers, Vatican expert Sandro Magister writes at Chiesa.
“The question of God is not exclusive to the West,” the cardinal said at a Friday presentation to the media. “Scientific language is increasingly more universal, and therefore also universalizes its own negation of God.
“For this reason, the West has a debt to pay to the whole world: not to remove, but to clarify for itself the reasons for faith in God. Only in this way will it be capable of dialoguing with different cultures, principally those of Asia, instead of closing in on itself.”
The event’s other scheduled speakers include German philosopher Robert Spaemann, British philosopher Roger Scruton, the French philosopher Rémi Brague and Vatican Museum director Antonio Paolucci.
Topics to be discussed include God in music, cinema, television, and the sciences. “God and violence” and “God in beauty” will be other themes, as will creation and evolution.
Magister reports that the aim of the event is to revive a “positive encounter” between the faith and the culture of today. In his view, the event is harmonious with Pope Benedict’s approach and is an example of the mystery of God being rejected by the dominant culture but being alive in the hearts and minds of the “little ones.”
Vancouver, Canada, Dec 8, 2009 (CNA) - Voicing a spirit of “radical hospitality,” Archbishop of Vancouver J. Michael Miller has sent a letter to Winter Olympic athletes informing them of the archdiocese’s two hospitality centers and inviting them to Ash Wednesday and Sunday Masses during the athletic event.
“Vancouver has been preparing for your arrival for many years!” began his Nov. 30 letter to the athletes of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
Archbishop Miller explained the archdiocese’s embrace of “radical hospitality” as a way to see Jesus as “both guest and host” at the Games.
“While you are here, we hope you will consider visiting one of the Archdiocese’s downtown hospitality centers for athletes,” the archbishop said.
One center is at Holy Rosary Cathedral on 646 Richards Street. The second is at the archdiocese’s offices on 150 Robson Street, across from the Olympic event venue BC Place Stadium.
“We think you will find these places to be ‘sanctuaries’ while you take a break from the rigors of competition, and we hope you will find a common language in the love of Jesus Christ,” Archbishop Miller said.
He invited Olympians to Ash Wednesday Mass on Feb. 17 and he also noted that the locations of churches and their Mass times can be found on the archdiocese’s website.
“We wish all of you who have come to our beautiful city a satisfying and rewarding competition during the 2010 Olympiad but, most of all, we hope you will experience the ‘radical hospitality’ of Vancouverites,” he added.
The archdiocese has set up a special Olympic Outreach section on its website at http://www.rcav.org/2010.
Vatican City, Dec 8, 2009 (CNA) -
Pope Benedict XVI presided over a rare mid-week Angelus from the Apostolic Palace window on this cool, overcast day in Rome, the occasion being the feast day of the Immaculate Conception. The Pontiff called Mary the "new Eve" and urged all Catholics to entrust themselves to her protection.
Pope Benedict dedicated his pre-Angelus address to an explanation of why Mary is "Immaculate" and what that title might say to us.
He quoted from the book of Genesis and the Gospel of Luke in providing the illustration for the visitors and pilgrims at St. Peter's.
Referring to the passage from Genesis first, he recounted the words of God in Gen. 3:15 about how, after original sin, God made a promise to Satan, then in serpent form, that "the offspring" of woman would strike at his head.
And, the pope continued, "the day would come when 'a son of woman' would do this very thing.”
"So, through the offspring of the woman, God himself wins," concluded Benedict XVI.
He "has defeated once and for all the age old tempter."
For this reason, he explained, so often you see the renderings of the "Immaculate One" with the serpent underfoot.
Turning to today's Gospel, the Holy Father noted, "The evangelist, Luke, on the other hand, shows us the Virgin Mary that receives the announcement of the celestial Messenger. She appears as the humble and authentic daughter of Israel, true Zion in which God wishes to make his dwelling. She is the young descendant from which shall be born the Messiah, the just and merciful King." It was through her that God decided to rebuild his people, said the Pope.
"Differing from Adam and Eve, Mary remained obedient to the will of the Lord, with all of her being she pronounces her 'yes' and she puts herself fully at the disposal of the divine design."
"She's the new Eve, true 'mother of all the living,' of all that through their faith in Christ receive eternal life."
"What immense joy to have as a mother Immaculate Mary!" the Holy Father exclaimed to the crowd, explaining that they can ask her for help in times of need. "Each time that we experience our fragility and the suggestion of evil, we can turn to her, and our heart will receive light and comfort."
We must remember in the trying times, he continued, that "we are her children and the roots of our existence are deeply rooted in the infinite grace of God."
He then invited the faithful to entrust their lives, families and the entire world to the Immaculate Virgin, that we might find in her as the Church does a "star" to direct us to the course of Christ.
Pope Benedict plans to take his own advice and entrust himself to the Virgin Mary at the monument dedicated to her in Rome's Piazza di Spagna later this afternoon.
Vatican City, Dec 8, 2009 (CNA) - The traditional midnight Christmas Mass at St. Peter's Basilica will be held two hours earlier this year. For many the news aroused fears about the Pope's health, but, according to the Vatican spokesman, it's only an effort to save Pope Benedict's energy for a busy Christmas schedule.
Although the change is without precedent, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said not to worry. In a response to the Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli of Il Giornale, Fr. Lombardi said that the decision was made months ago and that "there are no 'alarms' whatsoever as to the health of the Pontiff."
It was decided the Mass would be held at 10 p.m. "to permit Benedict XVI to wear himself out a little less and to be able to retire earlier in anticipation of the reading of the message the day after. The Mass, instead of starting at midnight, will finish at that hour," Fr. Lombardi said.
The message referred to is the "Urbi et Orbi," the Pope's traditional noon address on Christmas Day, in which he announces the birth of the Savior and greets Rome and the world in multiple languages.
Among the events on the Pope's calendar leading up to Christmas Mass are today's celebration of the Immaculate Conception, a meeting with the new Cuban Ambassador to the Holy See, and a private audience with the President of Vietnam.
The latter two, Tornielli explains, are particularly important as they confirm Vatican relations with the two Communist nations, where the Church "is playing an important and delicate role on the social plane."
Rome, Italy, Dec 8, 2009 (CNA) -
The Holy Father made the trip across Rome this afternoon to complete the traditional act of papal veneration at the monument of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. In his message from the Piazza di Spagna, he contrasted the loving example of Mary with the persistent drum beat of evil found in the news media.
The Pope addressed Romans from the site of the famous Spanish Steps, where he said a statue of Mary "almost keeps watch over the city.”
Mary, Benedict XVI pointed out, is present all over Christian cities in paintings, mosaics and chapels, and through her presence she reminds us that "where sin is abundant, grace is overabundant."
"She is the Immaculate Mother that repeats also to the men of our time: do not be afraid, Jesus has conquered evil, he has conquered over it at the root, freeing us from its dominion."
"How much we need this wonderful news!" the Pope exclaimed, remarking on the contrast of this message to the communication of evil spread daily through the news media to the people.
This negativity, he continued, "isn't completely disposed of and day by day it accumulates. The heart hardens and thoughts are clouded."
"This is why the city needs Mary."
The Holy Father explained that by her very presence "she speaks to us of God, reminds us of the victory of Grace over sin and brings us hope even in the mostly humanly difficult situations."
Pope Benedict then delivered a powerful reflection on the dangers of urban living, The city, he said, has a tendency to make people disappear and every so often the story of one of these "invisible people" gets picked up by the media and exposed to the public "without mercy, or with false mercy." Every person, though, desires "to be accepted as a person and considered a sacred reality" and we all "require the greatest respect."
Each of us, though, as a part of our city is called to make it more hospitable. Said the Pope, "Everyone contributes to its life and to its moral climate, in good or in evil."
We "often we complain about the pollution of the air" but there also exists a "pollution of the spirit" that can impede us from treating others as they deserve to be treated. He stressed the importance of remembering that the people around us are not just bodies or "objects with faces, exchangeable and consumable."
It is Immaculate Mary, said the Holy Father, that "helps us to rediscover and defend the depth of the person, because in her there is perfect transparence of the soul in the body." "She is purity in person, in the sense that spirit, soul and body are in her fully coherent between themselves and with the will of God."
The Madonna teaches us to see the world and others "with mercy, with love, with infinite tenderness," he explained.
Pope Benedict closed the gathering with praise for those who already practice this behavior in their actions and implored all to "lend an ear to the voice of Mary" in her message that "where sin is abundant, grace is overabundant." In being aware of this and acting with our hearts, he said, our cities will be "more beautiful, more Christian, and more human."
Guayaquil, Ecuador, Dec 8, 2009 (CNA) - The founder of the Christian Life Movement, Luis Fernando Figari, encouraged the nearly 250 participants of the movement’s 3rd Plenary Assembly to build up the present and future in a spirit of hope, and to “welcome God in your lives and the assistance of Holy Mary on the path towards holiness.”
In his address yesterday afternoon in Guayaquil, Ecuador, Figari reflected on the first two plenary assemblies of the CLM and on the crisis facing today’s world. He encouraged members of the movement to deepen their commitment to the Church, so that with “the realism of hope,” they might work towards building a “more just and reconciled world.”
Recalling the words of John Paul II at the CLM’s first Plenary Assembly in Rome in 1999, Figari said that members of the movement are called to be “artisans of reconciliation” and “efficient workers in the plentiful harvest.”
“The starting point for every CLM member must be his or her identity as a human and Catholic person.” This identity, he continued, “senses a nostalgia for the infinite” and “responds to the anxiety of proclaiming the Lord Jesus as the reconciler of man who offers the key, the way to advance towards the eternal encounter in order to transform the world according to the divine plan,” Figari said.
He explained that CLM members seek to communicate their faith and fervently proclaim that “human life has meaning,” and that changing one’s live and embracing a spirit of hope is possible.
Figari noted that secularism is a “grave threat” that excludes God and his divine plan from the lives of human beings, fostering indifference and a divorce between faith and daily life. “The crisis of faith and the advance of nothingness lead to despair. To me there is a very close relationship between the loss of faith, nothingness and despair,” he added.
Figari warned that while the crisis causes anguish and suffering, for the believer it ought to be an occasion for drawing close to Christ with hope. “With a weakened Catholic identity, faith and love of the Church are also weakened, which leads people who suffer from this weakness to replace it with vague beliefs and to stray from a coherent practice of the faith,” he said.
He also reminded the CLM members that Mary is the help of Christians on the road to sanctity. He called on them to “live the spirituality of Mary, allowing yourselves to be configured to the Lord Jesus in order to thus achieve holiness.”
“God invites us to be his apostles out of love and tenderness. We must allow ourselves to be embraced by the Lord Jesus, so that his light might completely inflame our hearts. Our call is to be a flame that transforms everything with the fire of divine love, illuminating the dark and stormy night of so many, giving them warmth. Only then will we really be able to fulfill the words of the Lord Jesus that have been the theme of this assembly: ‘I have chosen you to go and bear fruit and that your fruit remain,’” Figari said.
Vicente Eduardo Bengoa, a college student and CLM member from the Dominican Republic, remarked that he has felt a real “climate of family” at the assembly. “It must be because we all share the same spirituality. The apostolate is common in all of us and I want to continue learning how to bring the message of the Lord Jesus to more people.”
Jeremy Ambrose, a young Australian living in Sydney, said, “this CLM assembly reminded me of World Youth Day because of all the young people here who have so much enthusiasm, desire and courage to serve the Church through the CLM.”
“I am convinced that the Lord wants us to continue spreading his Word to many places and many people.”
Fabio Brunori, a 23 year-old Italian from Italy, called the experience “an important occasion for my spiritual growth and for learning more about the spirituality of the CLM.” He added that hopes to bring back to Italy “a new way of carrying out the apostolate, a better way that is more attractive and creative, but always in the style of the Sodalite spirituality.”
For Yurina Mariano, a 17-year old young woman from Huambo, Angola, the assembly “was a great experience because I met other members of the CLM from all over the world and I have realized that it doesn’t matter where we are, we all have the same spirituality and the same mission of evangelization. I believe that the Lord brought me here because I can help other Angolans.”
The 3rd Plenary Assembly concludes today on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception with a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Raul Vela of Quito, Ecuador.
Mexico City, Mexico, Dec 8, 2009 (CNA) - Noting that laws are not enough, the Archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, has asked the faithful to create a culture where human rights are respected as a reality.
“This is about actions. It is not just a question of laws which are put on paper. It's not just about shouting them in the streets, but rather making these rights concrete when we see the hunger of so many of our brothers and sisters,” said the cardinal during Mass on Sunday.
Thus, in regard to the inequality of the social strata, “such scandalous” social differences must be eliminated and a justice which erases the existing inhuman social levels of misery, hunger and ignorance, must be achieved.
In his homily, the prelate invited the faithful to take advantage of the season of Advent for their personal conversions. He cautioned them not to allow “the torturous and rough path” to distance them from the hope and joy that is found in Christmas.
Cardinal Rivera affirmed that “conversion is not something negative.” “On the contrary, there isn't anything more positive than to let go of the negative things in order to prepare the way for the coming of Christ by getting rid of everything that stands in the way of, or is contrary to, the dignity and equality of each and every man,” he concluded.
Washington D.C., Dec 8, 2009 (CNA) - The U.S. Senate voted this afternoon to table the Nelson-Hatch-Casey Amendment that would have prohibited the federal funding of abortions in the government's reformed health care system.
At around 5:30 p.m. EST, the Senate held a roll call vote on tabling the abortion amendment, which would maintain the 30-year-old Hyde Amendment ban on federal funds paying for abortions. With 51 votes needed to kill the amendment, the attempt succeeded 54 votes to 45.
“As written, the Senate Heath care bill allows taxpayer dollars, directly and indirectly to pay for insurance plans that cover abortion,” said Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) on his website Monday. Most Americans, he continued, “do not favor using public funds to cover abortion and as a result this bill shouldn't open the door to do so.”
Sen. Nelson, a pro-life Democrat, filed his amendment in the Senate on Monday, announcing, “The amendment we offer today mirrors the Stupak language added to the House Health care bill,” Nelson said. “For more than 30 years, taxpayers' money hasn't been used for abortions, a standard that has the broad support of American people.”
Nelson's amendment received the support of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, while opponents claimed that it would decrease access to abortion.
On Dec. 2, Jake Thompson, spokesman for Sen. Nelson told CNA that the amendment is “going to seek to accomplish the goal that the Stupak amendment does, to ensure that federal funding dollars cannot be used for abortion.”
Thompson also confirmed that Sen. Nelson will not vote for the Senate health care bill unless it has such an amendment. Fox News also reported that the senator has pledged to vote with Republicans to filibuster the legislation should it fail to include it.
Reacting to today's vote, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said in a Tuesday evening teleconference that he is “very disappointed in the Senate's vote today; not even wanting even to vote up or down on this measure.”
Perkins also questioned the motivations of the House and Senate lawmakers. “I think it's become very evident through this process ... this is more about abortion and Planned Parenthood than it is about Americans and their physical well being,” the FRC president said.
In particular, Perkins singled out Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), stating, “For Senator Reid to potentially jeopardize health care in order to protect an expansion of abortion through taxpayer dollars is unconscionable. And for him to stand on the floor and say that he's about life when he's voting to accelerate the extermination of the unborn is beyond the pale.”
Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser also criticized Sen. Reid, stating, “Tonight Senator Reid invoked Henry Clay, posing as a great compromiser even as he denied the consciences of the majority of Americans. Yet Clay himself would have never blanched at Nelson’s amendment, a commonsense proposal backed by 61% of America. You can’t find greater common ground than the decision to restrict government funding for abortion on-demand. With his actions tonight, Harry Reid has effectively tabled the common ground.”
Wichita, Kan., Dec 8, 2009 (CNA) - Wichita priest and U.S. Army chaplain Fr. Emil Kapaun heroically saved wounded sounders from the battlefield of the Korean War and ministered to his fellow prisoners in a prison camp. His life, death and possible beatification are the focus of an eight article series and a DVD being produced by the Wichita Eagle.
During the Korean War the Kansas-born Fr. Kapaun was assigned to the U.S. Army's Eighth Cavalry regiment, which was overrun in late 1951 by the Chinese army in North Korea.
Kapaun courageously rescued wounded soldiers from the battlefield, risking his own life to save them from execution by the Chinese. Later taken as a prisoner of war, he heroically worked to tend to the starving and sick, praying for and ministering to his fellow prisoners.
Eventually suffering a blood clot in his leg, Kapaun was moved to a hospital but was denied medical assistance. He died in May 1951, two years before the end of the war.
Surviving soldiers have praised Kapaun for his courage and faith. His story has been celebrated in Wichita for years, with local parishes praying to him and a Wichita high school named after him.
On Sunday the Wichita Eagle, a non-religious newspaper, began running its eight-part series “The Miracle of Father Kapaun.” An accompanying DVD on the life of Fr. Kapaun runs for 50 minutes and includes interviews of prisoners of war who knew Fr. Kapaun, church officials, people from the priest’s hometown, and Kear and his family.
Reporter Roy Wenzl and videographer Travis Heying are among the Eagle staff working on the series.
Eagle deputy editor Tom Shine wrote that the work of Wenzl, Heying and others will “finally provide a much better sense of who Kapaun was and why we continue to be touched by his legacy.”
The cause for his beatification is currently considering the unexplained recovery of Chase Kear, a young Kansas man severely injured in an October, 2008 pole vaulting accident.
Kear’s accident fractured his skull from ear to ear and caused some bleeding on his brain. Doctors told his parents their son would likely die either in surgery to remove the damaged piece of his skull or from a post-surgery infection.
Family and friends joined in petitions to Fr. Kapaun. Kear survived the surgery and walked out of the hospital only a few weeks out of the accident. Doctors were unable to explain the recovery, which many believed to be miraculous.
An investigator for the Vatican interviewed doctors and Kear’s family members. He reportedly had never seen doctors make “such a compelling case” for the occurrence of miracles.
Fr. Kapaun has also been recommended by the Secretary of the Army for the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest military honor of the United States.
The Wichita Eagle’s series of stories and two trailers for its documentary “The Miracle of Fr. Kapaun” can be seen at the website http://www.kansas.com/kapaun/
The Diocese of Wichita has scheduled several showings of the documentary between Dec. 13 and Feb. 2 and public television station KPTS plans several airings between Dec. 22 and Jan. 25.
Birmingham, England, Dec 8, 2009 (CNA) - Preaching today at his installation as the ninth Archbishop of Birmingham, England, Most Rev. Bernard Longley reflected on his new position and today's Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
“In preparing for this day I have been very conscious that I am entering into the life of a Christian family that has a long and rich history as well as its distinctive vocation to make Jesus Christ present, known and loved in this, the heart of England,” the prelate said in his installation Mass homily on Tuesday.
The Mass and installation were celebrated at the Metropolitan Cathedral and Basilica of St. Chad in Birmingham.
Speaking on the significance of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Archbishop Longley said that it “makes us aware of the power of Christ at work within us, as individuals and as communities, even – and perhaps with most effect, most fruitfully – when we are least aware of it.”
Archbishop Longley continued,“the most important moment of grace in Mary's life occurred when she was as yet incapable of sensing or recognizing it, still less understanding its importance.”
On the appearance of the Angel Gabriel to Mary, the Archbishop noted that “St. Luke does not disguise the fact that our Lady, even though she was full of grace, was deeply disturbed by the angel's words. The natural, human reaction of bewilderment and astonishment at something so powerful caused her to face it and accept it.”
Mary, preached the archbishop, had “two moments of amazement.” The first was that she was chosen by God, and the second was that her life was to be “fruitful with the birth of Christ.”
“We too, each of us, have been chosen and are highly favored,” he remarked. “We shall never fully understand the reason for God's choosing until we come one day to see him face to face, yet we have been chosen, each in our own particular way and together as the church, to bear Christ to others.”
Previously an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Westminster from 2003 to 2009, Archbishop Longley was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI as Archbishop of Birmingham on Oct. 1 of this year. The prelate was born in Manchester, England in 1955 and was ordained a priest of Arundel and Brighton, England in 1981.