A day of celebration and history has taken place at our Diocesan Mother Church, St Chad’s Cathedral.
The event on Saturday 18 June was organised collaboratively by the Cathedral Team and the Archdiocese of Birmingham History and Archives Commission.
It began with Mass, including the Rite of the Dedication of the Altar, celebrated by Archbishop Bernard Longley, on the Solemnity of the Dedication of the Cathedral.
The Mass included the Prayer of Dedication and the Anointings: Archbishop Bernard placed a relic of Blessed Dominic Barberi inside the altar which was then sealed; His Grace anointed the altar with the Oil of Chrism followed by the Incensation of the Altar and Lighting of the Altar.
Homily by Archbishop Bernard
Guests at today’s Mass included children from St Chad’s Catholic Primary School; the Diocesan Chapter of Canons; parishioners and friends of St Chad’s Cathedral and the Dean of Lichfield Cathedral, the Very Revd Adrian Dorber (St Chad was the first Bishop of Lichfield and Lichfield Cathedral is dedicated to St Chad).
Today’s celebration also marked the official launch of the Diocesan History and Archives Commission.
After Mass talks were given by guest speakers Dr John Jenkins from the University of York on The Life and Afterlife of St Chad: from Bede to Birmingham; and Dr Judith Champ, from the Archdiocese of Birmingham, on: Why build a cathedral? Piety, Politics, Pennies – and Pugin.
The purpose of the Commission (founded in 2021) is to enhance appreciation and understanding of the history of the Archdiocese in our parishes and communities, to support the Archdiocesan Archivist in building awareness of the archives in the life of the Archdiocese, and to offer resources and guidance to individuals and groups seeking to deepen their understanding of the history of the Archdiocese.
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Welcome from the Cathedral Dean, Mgr Timothy Menezes
Welcome to St Chad’s Cathedral on this Solemnity of the Dedication of the Cathedral and as today the Altar in the Cathedral is dedicated.
The Eucharist is the heart of the Church’s life. From the altar which symbolises Christ the Chief Cornerstone, we receive the Body of Christ and we become the Body of Christ.
At this point in history, and as we hope to emerge gradually from the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic, the altar has taken on a new significance.
During Holy Week 2020, when the People of God could not attend the ceremonies of the Easter Triduum, they came to know very deeply what St John Paul II referred to as “a hunger for the Eucharist”.
Out of necessity, we rediscovered Spiritual Communion and saw the value of being united in prayer even when we could not be present to one another around the altar.
That longing to be present manifested itself for many people in a range of reactions to being able to participate in person once again and to receive the Body of Christ at the Mass in which they participate, fully, consciously and actively.
In celebrating this important day in the life of the Cathedral, Archbishop Bernard Longley represents the many Archbishops and Bishops of Birmingham who have fed the flock entrusted to them, under the patronage of St Chad, in this holy place.
We remember today the clergy who have served this Cathedral Church. Fr Brian Doolan was the Dean of St Chad’s Cathedral (1999-2007) and was responsible for the altar that we use day by day and which is dedicated in this celebration.
It is still remembered by many in the city that Canon Leo McCartie, (later Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham and subsequently Bishop of Northampton), during his tenure as Cathedral Administrator, established a homeless shelter in the crypt of St Chad’s Cathedral which ceased to be after a fire in the crypt.
That understanding of the connection between the Eucharist which is celebrated here and Christ’s command to feed the poor and fulfil the corporal works of mercy must never be forgotten and in our day is seen through the important welcome to refugees and asylum seekers, on Shadwell Street, by St Chad’s Sanctuary and through the recent revival of a Cathedral Parish SVP Conference.
We remember with gratitude all benefactors and parishioners of St Chad’s and we pray for the Mission of the Cathedral and its community now and in generations to come.
Today also marks the beginning of the Archdiocese of Birmingham History and Archives Commission. We pray that this venture will bear fruit for years to come because whoever values their future treasures their past.
The relic which is placed in the altar at this Mass is one of Blessed Dominic Barberi, the Italian Passionist Priest who received John Henry Newman into the Catholic Church at Littlemore in Oxford in 1845.
The Catholic community of the Archdiocese of Birmingham has rejoiced in recent years at the Beatification of Cardinal Newman by Pope Benedict XVI in Birmingham in 2010 and the Canonisation by Pope Francis in Rome in October 2019.
As Birmingham has the Saint for which many prayed over so many years, so Archbishop Bernard has promoted devotion to Blessed Dominic Barberi in our Archdiocese since his installation as Archbishop in 2009, that the one who led a Saint to the Catholic Faith may now be recognised as a Saint himself.
We rejoice in the beauty and truth of our faith and we celebrate with great joy this day of the Dedication of the Altar in St Chad’s Cathedral; that it may be:
a sign of Christ,
a table of joy,
a place of communion and peace,
a source of unity and friendship
and the centre of our praise and thanksgiving.