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Pope gave UK Catholics a "new agenda," says Archbishop Nichols
Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols
Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols

.- According to the primate of English and Welsh Catholics, the Holy Father set a "new agenda" for the faithful in Britain. A single message united all of the Pope's teachings during the trip, he said, that of the importance of faith in modern societies.

Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols, the president of English and Welsh bishops, wrote his reflections on Benedict XVI's Apostolic Visit to the U.K. into an article published in Friday's edition of L'Osservatore Romano.

The four day visit, he noted, "was an extraordinary success. The Pope was received everywhere with warmth, enthusiasm and joy." Hundreds of thousands of people were able to see him and opinions contrary to the visit turned out to be "few and isolated," wrote the archbishop.

Describing the smiles, joy, respect and enthusiasm he witnessed from the people at the Pope's presence in Scotland and England, Archbishop Nichols stated that the visit "really enriched our countries."

The Pope's "coherent and clear" message, he went on, was that "faith in God plays an important role in modern pluralist societies."

The archbishop particularly remembered the Holy Father's words that the cultural foundations of British society should not be forgotten or neglected, that moral principles are fundamental to the stability of democracy and that faith and reason walk hand-in-hand.

The Pope was able to set a "new agenda" for the U.K. Church in several ways, he recalled. Firstly, he defined the way to speak of faith in the complex British society, with courtesy, sensitivity, clarity, reason and openness of heart, noted Archbishop Nichols, who added that he hoped all who speak of faith in the U.K. might show these qualities.

Then, during Mass at Westminster Cathedral, he remembered, the Pope also highlighted the type of testimony that should be given. On that occasion, the Holy Father called for "witnesses of the beauty of holiness, witnesses of the splendor of truth, witnesses of the joy and freedom born of a living relationship with Christ!"

Thirdly, continued the archbishop, the Holy Father also was able to attract attention to Christ and his eternal sacrifice, speaking also in this context of dismay for the crime of child sex abuse within the Catholic Church and for the failings of bishops to react effectively to the problem.

Rounding out the "agenda" left by the Pope was his encouragement for greater cooperation with civil authorities for the common good, generosity and sensitivity in the face of financial difficulty and increased collaboration between the Holy See and the British government on issues of common interest, he recalled.

Concluding, Archbishop Nichols said, "(i)t was a truly remarkable visit. The Pope contributed to an important step in our rich history and helped us to trace out our future. We give thanks to God for his ministry and assure him of our love and prayer."


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