'The Holy Spirit is at the heart of the Church,' says Archbishop Vincent Nichols

Sydney, Australia, Jul 17, 2008 / 09:49 am (CNA) .- Speaking to an international audience of pilgrims at WYD08 in Sydney’s Convention and Exhibition Centre on Thursday, Most Rev. Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Birmingham, England explained how the Holy Spirit is at the heart of the Church.

"The sacraments of the Church are actions which convey to us the grace of God. Whether it be the pouring of water… or the laying over of hands in the ordination of the priests, all the actions of the Mass, and each of the sacraments, are a tangible sign of the inward grace of the Holy Spirit,” said Archbishop Nichols.

He illustrated his point through a story of a woman living in Edminton, north of London, who had been coming to Church for years, without being a Catholic and not knowing why she felt compelled to go to church. Upon being asked why she eventually converted to Catholicism, she said “ whatever it is that happens on that altar touches me very deeply.”

“Those simple words point us to the heart of the church. The heart of the Church is summed up by the action of the Mass,” said Archbishop Nichols.

The Bishop stressed that he wanted the pilgrims to take two things from the Catechesis today.

Firstly, that “the Church is instituted by Christ, he was there at its beginning. Everything flows from him. It is all instituted by Jesus Christ.”

Secondly, that “the Church is constituted by the Holy Spirit. Held together, [it] finds its strength, and changes from dry bones into life, by the Holy Spirit.” 

“When we are baptized, we are given a name… God’s name for us, chosen by our parents,” said the bishop. “Another bit about Baptism, that we don’t always remember is that there is a prayer in the Baptism, “that our eyes be opened, that we have a new level of perception.”

“Listen to things that are underneath the noise of everyday,” he urged the pilgrims. “All life comes to us as a gift from the Holy Spirit. Baptism introduces us, every day of our lives, to a new way of seeing and listening… Through baptism, we begin to see life differently.”

“We live in the hope that God’s word in this world will be completed, and will bring all things to fulfilment in the Church.”

However, the Bishop also urged the pilgrims to be on guard.

“What have we got to be on our guard against? We’ve got to be on our guard against the comments of people who don’t understand that the Holy Spirit is at the heart of the church.”

“Constantly, you will get in discussion of the church, a division, she’s very conservative, right wing, left wing. That’s not the language to use about the Church,” said the bishop, which attracted a loud applause.

“That’s the language of political parties and politics. That’s not the way to describe the church.”

“The Church is the work of the Holy Spirit. Don’t fall into that habit of polarizing things in the Church, or seeing it as a battleground of ideas. It isn’t, it is a mystery of God’s love in the Church.”

“The Church is like a family. If you look back to the story of Mary and John and Jesus on the Cross. Obviously, each family has disagreements, but underneath their hearts belong to each other.”

He concluded by linking the catechesis of the previous day with the Thursday’s theme. “The Holy Spirit is the tutor of our interior life. It means the Holy Spirit can guide each one of us, give us a way of longing.”

“Today we add to that- in saying that the Holy Spirit is the heart of the Church. Those things are inseparable. Once we begin to recognise and respond to Jesus, it is inevitable that we are then drawn into the life of the Church.”

“Those who love Jesus love the Church, those who love him come to Church…when you love the church more and more, you will find you want to give time and effort to be part of the life of the Church…as you learn to love the Church, you will learn to love priests, who give their life to the Church.”

Finally, he said in preparation for the Pope’s arrival, “The welcome we give to the Pope springs from the love of Christ and the Church.”