Bishops remember Muslim community during Walk of Witness in Birmingham
At a time when a number of Muslim communities “have felt under scrutiny” because of the recent allegations of fundamentalist influences within some of Birmingham city’s schools, the Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Reverend Bernard Longley and the Anglican Bishop of Birmingham, Bishop David Urquhart “recalled the thousands of our fellow citizens who are Muslims and who gather every Friday to pray for God’s blessing of peace upon our city” during the walk of Witness on Good Friday.
Archbishop Longley said: “It is my privilege to meet regularly with many of the leaders from the other faith communities in the Birmingham Faith Leaders Group and I know that they are deeply respectful of our Christian faith and religious festivals. In turn we should be mindful of some of the pressures and difficulties that face these communities from time to time.”
At the annual Easter Monday Men’s Mass, the Archbishop quoted words from Pope Francis’ recent Apostolic Exhortation ‘The Joy of the Gospel’ in which he encourages Catholics to enter into dialogue with their Muslim neighbour. Archbishop Longley said: “Some of us may well have neighbours or work colleagues who are Muslims and wherever possible we should let our contacts with them be enriched by those insights of Pope Francis.“ And he highlighted “our duty” to show the love of our Lord “to our fellow citizens who are faithful Jews or Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs or Buddhists.”
Archbishop Bernard Longley – Homily
EASTER MONDAY MASS 2014
ST CHAD’S CATHEDRAL, BIRMINGHAM
Peter stood up with the Eleven and addressed the crowd in a loud voice.
Our annual Easter Monday Men’s Mass is a special occasion, unique to our Archdiocese, which has its roots in a moment of controversy. It takes us back to a time when misunderstanding and suspicion between the Catholic Church and the other Christians communities in England were not unusual. The Catholic Church’s disadvantaged place in our society was still a living memory in England, and in some parts of the United Kingdom very much a contemporary reality.
The Men’s Mass began in 1919 as a demonstration of our Catholic faith in the Real Presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament at a moment when that belief had been openly criticised within our city. It is good to recall such events from our past so that we can make a fair assessment of how far we have travelled in terms of our ecumenical journey alongside our fellow Christians.
Today the churches of Birmingham witness and work together as much as possible and I am grateful that some three hundred Christians were able to join myself and Bishop David Urquhart, the Anglican Bishop of Birmingham, for the Walk of Witness on Good Friday. While not ignoring significant areas of disagreement between us we are first of all conscious of the fundamental beliefs that we hold in common, especially in the saving power of Christ’s resurrection for all people and our common mission to preach His good news.
In the multi-cultural and multi-faith setting of a city like Birmingham the Christian communities sense their kinship with one another more keenly. But we are also aware that it is our duty to proclaim our Lord as Saviour of all peoples and that we must show His love to our fellow citizens who are faithful Jews or Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs or Buddhists.
It is my privilege to meet regularly with many of the leaders from the other faith communities in the Birmingham Faith Leaders Group and I know that they are deeply respectful of our Christian faith and religious festivals. In turn we should be mindful of some of the pressures and difficulties that face these communities from time to time.
It was for that reason that for a moment during the walk of Witness on Good Friday we recalled the thousands of our fellow citizens who are Muslims and who gather every Friday to pray for God’s blessing of peace upon our city. Because of the publicity highlighting recent allegations of fundamentalist influences within some of the city’s schools a number of Muslim communities have felt under scrutiny.
In his recent Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium – The Joy of the Gospel Pope Francis urges us in this way: Faced with disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism, our respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalisations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.
The Holy Father encourages us to enter into dialogue with our Muslim neighbour: Our relationship with the followers of Islam has taken on great importance, since they are now significantly present in many traditionally Christian countries, where they can freely worship and become fully a part of society. We must never forget that they “profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, who will judge humanity on the last day”.
It is admirable to see how Muslims both young and old, men and women, make time for daily prayer and faithfully take part in religious services. Many of them also have a deep conviction that their life, in its entirety, is from God and for God. They also acknowledge the need to respond to God with an ethical commitment and with mercy towards those most in need.
Some of us may well have neighbours or work colleagues who are Muslims and wherever possible we should let our contacts with them be enriched by those insights of Pope Francis.
The Men’s Mass is a very welcome Birmingham tradition and it has adapted according to needs of each generation. For many years fathers and grandfathers have been coming with their sons and grandsons to celebrate the Easter Monday Mass and to witness to their faith together in the heart of our city. Today I thank you for honouring that tradition and for beginning this bank Holiday by strengthening one another in your Easter faith. I am pleased that once again this year my own father has been able to join me for this Mass.
When the Men’s Mass began in 1919 it must have been a very poignant occasion. Easter Monday was barely six months since the Armistice of November 1918 which had brought the First World War to an end. How many fathers must have been present in this Cathedral whose sons had perished in the war, how many gaps there must have been in the ranks of families represented on that occasion and in many successive years?
In August this year we shall mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, evoking memories that are still alive in many of our families. Today we remember the families of military personnel who have lost their loved ones in contemporary conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and other troubled parts of the world – especially families where fathers and sons can no longer be together. Before you leave the cathedral today you might offer a prayer near the Cathedral’s War Memorial for families broken and divided by warfare and conflict throughout the world.
Today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles shows us the new courage that helped St Peter to proclaim his faith in front of others. Peter stood up with the Eleven and addressed the crowd. St Peter’s witness was not only to the crowd – he was also setting an example to his brothers. The handing-on of our faith is vital and there is an important message that you are proclaiming today. In the midst of all the things that unite fathers and sons – our common interests and the activities that give us a chance to spend some time together – nothing is more important than our shared faith in the risen Lord. As family members you are witnessing your faith to one another.
Today I thank you who are fathers and grandfathers for this public demonstration of your faith in the risen Lord and for sharing that faith within your families. I also thank you who are sons and grandsons for the love and respect that you show but above all for supporting and encouraging your fathers and grandfathers in their faith.
May you and all the members of your families be blessed this Easter season as the risen Christ continues to renew our faith and our confidence in Him.