Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Installation of Archbishop Peter Smith at Southwark

Archbishop Peter Smith was installed as Archbishop of Southwark at St George's Cathedral on Thursday, 10th June 2010

The ceremony was attended by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the Archbishops of Westminster, Birmingham and Liverpool and most of the Bishops of England and Wales and Bishops from further afield, ecumenical and civic dignitaries, the priests and deacons of the diocese, with many from Archbishop Peter's previous diocese of Cardiff, and religious and laity from around Southwark.

For more pictures see the Archdiocese website here.

The homily had a number of themes but here is an extract of one passage which has more than contemporary relevance:

"There are those in our own times who would like to see people of faith thrown down too. We are living at a moment in our history when our society is marked by deep struggles about its identity, values and purpose. It’s a society in which religion and religious faith are increasingly under attack from the philosophers and the “worldly wise” of our times.

Religious faith, and all that flows from it, is all too often perceived at best to be simply a legally permissible but private eccentricity; allowable only behind closed doors, but not in any way to be given expression in public life, the workplace or in the field of education.

The historic, present, and future value of religion to the secular and spiritual life of the country has come under increasing criticism, and is often summarily dismissed as irrelevant and even dangerous.

At the extreme, there are those who represent an aggressive secularism or an anti-theism, which asserts a vision of a secular society completely free of religion and its influence.

In the words of the Jesuit theologian, Fr. James Hanvey:
“Part of this approach is to construct a version of religion, especially Catholicism, that not only makes it strange to the secular mind but presents it as a threat. . . Religion in general, but the Church in particular, comes to stand for all the deepest fears and demons of a liberal secularism: it is prejudiced, oppressive, irrational, authoritarian, and capable of inspiring fanatical violence and abusing power.”

However, the reality is that the Church is not a threat to the legitimate independence and proper role of the secular State. The ambition of the Church is to see every person flourish and achieve his or her full potential, irrespective of race, religion, colour or creed.

And, in the light of the Gospel, she has a clear vision of what religion and faith can offer to a confused and fragmented society and world. The Church, and by Church I mean all the baptised, by virtue of her God-given mission, must be passionately engaged in expressing that vision, because she wants humanity to succeed, not fail.

That mission is to shed the light of Christ in the world of our times and to bring people to the knowledge of the truth - the truth of what it means to be human, the truth about the purpose of human life, the truth of God’s unconditional love for everyone without exception. That was the mission of Christ; that is the mission he passed on to all of us, when we received the Holy Spirit in the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation."