Mass Times for Christmas and New Year



The Solemn Nativity of the Lord

Sat 24th Dec – Christmas Eve
4.30pm People of the Parish
Midnight 11.45pm Private Intentions

Sun 25th Dec – Christmas Day
9.00am Holy Souls
11.00am Our Benefactors

PLEASE NOTE: The Mass at Midnight will be televised live by the BBC. It will actually begin by candlelight at 11.45pm with the Blessing of the Crib.

Access will be through the Cathedral House Reception – for your comfort and safety, there will be Security and Wardens who may request to check handbags, etc. The door will open at 10.30pm and all need to be seated by 11.15pm. Further information will be given on arrival. For those who have asked, national dress or costumes are welcome.

The collections at our Christmas Masses will be your Christmas Offering to your clergy.

Monday 26th to Friday 30th December – daily Mass at 12.15pm.

During this first week of the Christmas Season, to enable our staff to take some well-earned rest with their families, the Cathedral will not open until 8.00am and it will be closed after the 12.15pm Masses.

Vigil for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

Sat 31st Dec
4.30pm People of the Parish
Sun 1st Jan
Mary, the Mother of God
9.00am Danny Sheehan
11.00am Nell & Chris Carter

St Paul’s Bookshop will be closed from Sunday 25th December and re-open on Friday 30th and Saturday 31st. It will be closed on Monday January 2nd and will re-open as normal from Tuesday 3rd January 2017.

Where Can I Put My Flowers

Visitors from around the archdiocese gathered on wednesday 15th April in St Chads Cathedral, Birmingham to launch this years annual Flower Festival, and to organise the special places in the Cathedral for their displays.

Churches and schools from many denominations are welcomed to take part in the event which is being held on Friday Saturday and Sunday June the 12th, 13th, and 14th. The theme for this year is the “Year of Consecrated Life”

The Festival is open to the public from 10.0AM until 7.0PM daily, culminating in a presentation Evening and Concert at 5.00pm on the Sunday Evening, with a concert by the Birmingham Schools Wind Orchestra. Admission for the Concert followed by Wine and Canapes in the Grimshaw Room is £7.50.

Two year old Margaret Mary from Edgbaston was among the first to look around the Cathedral to find a suitable display corner for her Floral Tribute to Our Lord. Her choice was met with her Daddy’s approval, being by Our Ladies’ Statue.

Anyone wishing to take part in the Festival can contact Anne Symonds by Email on

St Chad’s Cathedral Fifth Annual Flower Festival

12 – 14 June 2015

St Chad’s Cathedral and Minor Basilica is still known as one of A W Pugin’s gems and he was determined along with the Earl of Shrewsbury that it would be filled with works of art and have magnificent stained glass windows by the Hardman’s. In June 12 to 14 we are determined to fill the Cathedral with magnificent displays of flowers of all shapes, sizes and colours. Our theme this year is “The Year of Consecrated Life”, as declared by Pope Francis. He is asking all religious, priests and deacons to “Wake up the World” with their testimony of faith, holiness and hope.

Help us make our 5th Annual Flower Festival an even greater success than last year. You will be more than welcome to just come and wander round our magnificent displays and enjoy a cup of tea and a cake. If you offer to come and join us to put up a display for your parish or lady’s group you will be even more welcome and you will make new friends for life.

For further details contact Anne Symonds: 0121 249 1487 or

Remembering the Fallen of WW1

Sunday 3rd August 2014

Archbishop Bernard will celebrate the 11.00am Mass to Commemorate the Centenary of WWI which will be celebrated as a requiem for The Fallen of the First World War. One of the Hardman windows in the south aisle honours the men of the cathedral who fell in what is referred to as the Great War. Below the window is our War Memorial Shrine designed by Gerald Hardman with a carving of Christ laid in his mother’s arms after being taken down from the cross. It contains the Roll of Honour and mementoes of many of the 200 men from the cathedral parish. The Memorial was dedicated on Armistice Day 1921.

TMYG Supports Teenage Cancer Trust

Around seven young people aged between 13 and 24 are diagnosed with cancer every day in the UK.

TCT 2On 23 March children from the TMYG (Tommy More Youth Group) in Sheldon, Birmingham were asked to help fundraise money for the Teenage Cancer Trust, the charity was chosen by the children themselves when the youth group launched in September 2012, after a visit from a representative from Teenage Cancer Trust, explained that the charity was set up to improve the experience of teenagers at this very difficult time. Children’s hospital wards were not very teenage friendly, often teenagers were in wards with very young children and babies, this was found to be detrimental to the teenagers.

‘Too often wards have negative energy because of the pain and worry people suffer on them but you don’t get that on a Teenage Cancer Trust unit. Sure, there is pain and worry and everything else but the optimism and laughter changes that.’ (Heather, 17, bone cancer).

The first Teenage Cancer Unit opened in Birmingham Children’s Hospital in February 2010.

TCT 3TMYG hosted a Talent show in March 2013, took part in a Bag Pack at Melbicks Garden Centre in March 2014, the children worked really hard for nearly 6 hours, handling live insects and without complaining of tired feet, they didn’t want to leave even when their parents came to collect them.

Together with money from selling badges and wrist bands the youth group have raised a total of £340.

We are very proud of our youth group members who are pupils from St Andrew’s Catholic Primary School in Solihull, St Pauls Catholic Girls School in Birmingham, King Edward VI Camp Hill School for girls, for giving up their free time to help other young people and enjoy themselves along the way.

They were joined by junior leaders from St Peters Catholic School Solihull, senior leaders and former pupils of Stuart Bathurst, and Archbishop Ilsley.

New Auxiliary Bishop for the Archdiocese of Birmingham

Pope appoints Fr Robert Byrne CO as new Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham

Pope Francis has appointed as the new Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham, Fr Robert Byrne CO, until now the Bishops’ Conference National Ecumenical Officer. Fr Robert Byrne’s episcopal ordination will take place at 11am on Tuesday 13 May 2014 at the Mother Church of the Archdiocese of Birmingham, St Chad’s Cathedral. He will succeed Bishop Philip Pargeter, who has been Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham since 1990.

Fr Robert Byrne said:

‘I am deeply honoured and humbled that the Holy Father, Pope Francis has appointed me as Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham. His example will continue to inspire and shape my ministry in Birmingham, especially to serve the poor, the marginalised and those who may feel alienated from God and society.  In the spirit of St Philip Neri – the founder of the Oratory and a saint with a great sense of humour – I am committed to helping share the joy of the Gospel message with others.

‘I began my priestly ministry in Birmingham twenty nine years ago and I look forward to renewing my friendships and to making my home once again in this great city.  I have a great love for the Malvern Hills and the music of Elgar, so was particularly pleased when I learned that my ministry would include the pastoral care of the Worcestershire deaneries.

‘I have been richly blessed in these years by the people that I have met and the work that I’ve been asked to do – as a parish priest, in prison chaplaincy, and latterly as the Bishops’ Conference National Ecumenical Officer. I look forward to building upon this experience and to working closely with other Christians and people of all faiths and none.

‘I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to my Oratorian community for their priestly example, friendship and support. I shall miss them greatly and also the parishioners of St Aloysius parish in Oxford.

‘Blessed John Henry Newman, the founder of the English Oratory has inspired me as a priest.  I hope in some way to be able to follow his example, particularly in the care and love that he showed for his priests and people.

‘I know I can count on the prayer, co-operation and support of the people, the religious and the priests of the diocese. I look forward to working with and learning from Archbishop Bernard and Bishops William and David.

‘I ask for the prayers of Mary Immaculate, Patroness of the Diocese, together with St Chad and Blessed John Henry Newman as I begin my new ministry as Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham.’

Archbishop Bernard Longley said:

‘I am immensely grateful to Pope Francis for appointing Fr Robert Byrne Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham.  From his time at the Birmingham Oratory and as Provost of the Oxford Oratory, Fr Robert has come to know our Archdiocese well.

‘Having worked alongside him in recent years as the Bishops’ Conference Ecumenical Officer, I know that he will bring considerable pastoral, theological and administrative skills to his new responsibilities as a bishop.  Above all I am grateful that he brings the spirituality of St Philip Neri, the founder of the Oratory, to enrich his ministry among us.

‘I know that everybody in the Archdiocese, and especially in his pastoral area of Birmingham and Worcestershire, will join me in asking for the prayers of Fr Robert’s fellow Oratorian, Blessed John Henry Newman, as he now prepares for his episcopal ordination in May.

‘I also wish to record my abiding gratitude to Bishop Philip Pargeter for continuing to serve the Archdiocese with great dedication in recent years and for the support and friendship he has so generously given me.’

Fr Robert Byrne – Biography

22 September 1956    Born in Manchester, the youngest son of Sidney and Monica Byrne


St Bede’s College, Manchester
King’s College, London (BD and BD AKC)
Pontifical College of St Thomas Aquinas, Rome

1980 Entered Birmingham Oratory
1985 Ordained priest
1984-1988 Chaplain, St Philip’s College, Edgbaston
1990 Founder, Oxford Oratory
1993-2011 Provost
1990-1999 Parish Priest, St Aloysius Parish, Oxford
2000-2011 Secretary of the Permanent Deputation of the International Federation of the Congregations of the Oratory
1996-date Trustee and Governor of Oratory School
1988-date Prison chaplain

Fr Robert Byrne’s pastoral areas will include the following six deaneries:

Birmingham (Cathedral, North, South and East)

Key responsibilities:

Affirm & strengthen Catholic life in the Pastoral Area
Represent the Archbishop locally
Facilitate initiatives to strengthen and encourage the life of deaneries and parishes
Carry out formal visitations to parishes
Celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation

Fr Robert Byrne will become the titular bishop of Cuncacestre

Bishop Philip Pargeter

Photos copyright Fiona Bonham

Bishop opens “Hunger Hut” to launch End Hunger Fast Birmingham

The Rt Revd David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham, opened a “Hunger Hut” outside Birmingham Cathedral in Colmore Row on Wednesday 5th March 2014 to launch the End Hunger Fast campaign in the city.

End Hunger Fast is a national campaign, focused around the traditional Christian fasting season of Lent, which seeks to petition the Government to put an end to widespread food poverty in the UK.

Bishop David was one of 27 Anglican Bishops who signed a letter calling on Government to address the growing amount of hunger in the country as part of the campaign in February.

The Bishop, who chairs the Birmingham Social Inclusion Process, Giving Hope Changing Lives, has criticized the effect that increasing levels of poverty are having on individuals and families throughout Britain, saying that it is “a scandal” that in the seventh richest nation in the world, more than half a million people have needed to use a food bank in the last year and thousands have been admitted to hospital suffering from malnutrition.

As part of the campaign there will be a National Day of Fasting on Friday 4th April and a vigil in Parliament Square on Wednesday 16th April.

To pledge to join the National Day of Fasting, go to the End Hunger Fast website.

For more information about how to get involved in the campaign in Birmingham, visit the Birmingham Churches Together website.

Canon Gerry was in attendance.

World not hostile to the Gospel Message, says Archbishop of Birmingham

At the Annual Civic Mass, celebrated on the Feast of Christ the King (24 November) and the closing Sunday of the Year of Faith, the Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Reverend Bernard Longley said that fifty years on from the Second Vatican Council “We still need to look at the world not as an enemy that is indifferent or even hostile to the message of the Gospel but as the place where God’s salvation has already reached into people’ lives through the love of his Son Jesus Christ.”

The Archbishop said that it was important to find “ever fresh ways to show the love of God for the world,” and cited the presence of the crib in the Birmingham German Christmas Market as a “powerful reminder of God’s love come in to the world through the birth of his Son Jesus.”
He emphasised the importance of demonstrating God’s love through deeds, adding that “part of the appeal of Pope Francis is his ability to show by small, personal gestures that God cares about those who have the greatest challenges in life.”

Praising the generous outreach of all faith communities in the city of Birmingham, Archbishop Longley said that they are “often the first to recognise social needs within our local communities.” He highlighted the ‘Anawim Women’s Centre’ as one example of the many faith-inspired projects which demonstrably express the love of God. The centre exists to support women and their children, especially women vulnerable to exploitation, including prostitution.

The annual Civic Mass took place at St Chad’s Cathedral on Sunday 24 November and was attended by the Lord Mayor, City Councillors, MPs and MEPs, Judiciary, academics and diplomatic representatives as well as ecumenical and interfaith friends.

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(Featured Image – The Lord Mayor of Birmingham Councillor Mike Leddy and Lady Mayoress Mrs Pauline Leddy, Her Majesty’s Deputy Lord Lieutenant, Professor Deirdre Kelly and her husband, Sir Ian Byatt, Lord and Lady Whitby, High Court Judges, Circuit Judges and Recorders with Archbishop Bernard Longley, Canon Gerry Breen – Dean of the Cathedral, Mgr. Timothy Menezes – Vicar General and Fr. Gerry Lennon.)

10th Annual Dinner of St. Chad’s Cathedral Association

By Anne Symonds. The St. Chad’s Cathedral Association makes an important contribution to the life of the Metropolitan Cathedral and Basilica of St Chad, a hidden gem designed by A W Pugin, situated on the edge of the Birmingham’s world famous Jewellery Quarter.

The Most Reverend Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham and President of the St Chad’s Cathedral Association was the principal guest at the 10th Annual Dinner of the Association, held in the Canons’ Dining Room at Cathedral House, Birmingham, on Friday 8 November 2013.

More than 70 members and guests enjoyed an excellent four course meal which was well served by sixth form girls from St Paul’s School, Edgbaston. The Canons’ Dining Room had been transformed into a sea of autumnal colours with beautiful flowers and seed heads.

Guest speaker, Jane Dew, an expert on church vestment embroidery and on St Chad’s amazing collection of vestments, spoke about some of the fantastic items not normally seen by the general public. She was helped by Frances Crockett, the Cathedral Sacristan, who had prepared the vestments for display from the 43 historic sets of vestments owned by the Cathedral, one of the largest in the country. A guest from Lichfield Cathedral commented that they had only three sets. Amongst these was the wonderful blue and cream set worn by our present Archbishop at his installation. This set was designed for Archbishop Edward Ilsley’s Golden Anniversary and the granting of Metropolitan status to the Cathedral in 1911. The magnificent Shrewsbury set were designed by Pugin for the opening of the Cathedral in 1841. The design for the damask was based on the 14 century Syon cope. The black extremely heavy cope was made for the funeral of the Earl of Shrewsbury in 1852. It is the only vestment not made in Birmingham as it needed gold wire embroidery for the heraldic hood and this was not available in Birmingham at that time. Jane’s talk was most informative and amusing but sadly time did not allow her to go on. Her closing comment was that hopefully one day the Crypt will be turned into a Heritage Centre where the treasures would be able to be on permanent display to the public.

2013 has been a very successful year for the Association. We held a spectacular multi-faith flower festival for three days at the end of June which ended with a concert on the Sunday evening by Birmingham Schools Wind Orchestra. The soloist was Jonathan Warburton, a world renowned trombonist playing a British premiere. Our next big event will be providing refreshments for the Annual Carol Service on 22 December.

The Association was formed as a result of the increased awareness and interest in the Cathedral during the 150th Anniversary Appeal. The Association exists to support the Dean by providing funds for special projects and activities within the Cathedral. Members receive the Basilican Magazine twice a year, copies of the Cathedral Events Diary and Music list and an invitation to the Civic Mass and other events.

Anyone who is interested in joining the St Chad’s Cathedral Association should contact the Honorary Secretary, David Symonds,
Email: or telephone 01212491487 or the Cathedral Dean, Canon Gerry Breen 01212306201.

Peter Jennings RIP

We record the death of the internationally well-known Catholic journalist, writer and broadcaster: Peter Jennings. Peter served the diocese for many years and was Press Secretary to Archbishop Bernard and our previous Archbishop Vincent Nichols. Peter’s requiem will be here at St Chad’s this Wednesday at 10.30am. Please keep Peter and his family: Stella, Sarah and Joseph in your prayers.

Vespers with Cardinal Tauran at 3.15pm

Celebration of Vespers – Saturday 15th June at 3.15pm – Archbishop Bernard will celebrate and Cardinal Tauran, the President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, will preach. Cardinal Tauran is coming to Birmingham as part of a four day visit to the UK to meet with a number of Faith Leaders.


By Peter Jennings.

Archbishop Bernard Longley accompanied by Bishop David Urquhart, the Anglican Bishop of Birmingham, led the annual Good Friday Walk of Witness through the streets of Birmingham city centre.
More than 200 people from different Christian traditions took part in the Walk of Witness on a cold but bright morning, 29 March 2013.

In St Michael’s Catholic Church, Moor Street, Archbishop Bernard Longley read an extract of the Passion from the Gospel according to St Mark, and prayed that: “The Good News of Jesus may be proclaimed to the ends of the earth.”

Singing traditional hymns including, “The Old Rugged Cross” and “There is a green hill far away”, the members of the Christian communities made their way along the length of New Street to the statue of Queen Victoria in front of the old Birmingham Town Hall.

Here an extract of the Passion was read by Fr David Oakley, the New Rector of Mary’s College, Oscott, the Diocesan Seminary, who said a prayer for the citizens and the City of Birmingham.

The Walk of Witness continued along Colmore Row to St Philip’s Anglican Cathedral, where Bishop Urquhart read a further extract from the Passion and said a prayer for peace in the world.

The Walk of Witness then made its way to the Metropolitan Cathedral and Basilica of St Chad, where Stations of the Cross were led alternately by the Archbishop and the Bishop of Birmingham.

At the end, Archbishop Bernard Longley said a prayer for the ministry of Archbishop Justin Welby, the new Archbishop of Canterbury, and Bishop David Urquhart said a prayer for the ministry of Pope Francis.

This was a deeply symbolic ecumenical moment by two well-known Birmingham Church Leaders at the start of a new era for the Anglican Communion and for the Catholic Church world-wide.


By Peter Jennings.

The Most Reverend Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham, celebrated and preached at the 3pm Good Friday Liturgy, held at the Metropolitan Cathedral and Basilica of St Chad, Birmingham, on 29 March 2013.

The narrative of the Lord’s Passion according to St John was read, followed by the Solemn Intercessions and the Adoration of the holy Cross by which Jesus Christ redeemed the world.

During his homily, Archbishop Bernard Longley said: “In St John’s account of the Passion we have drawn near to Jesus on the cross so that we can see his sacrifice with eyes that are already enlightened by our experience of his resurrection.

“Through baptism we have joined with our Lord sacramentally in his death and resurrection – so it is as children of the resurrection that we approach the cross, longing for a more profound understanding of what Christ’s sacrifice means for us personally and for the world.

“When we draw near to Jesus on the cross we are also close to those who were with him at this moment of suffering and sacrifice. Apart from John himself it is the women who remain strong in this moment of trial and adversity.

“Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother supported by the other two Marys. We must add to his sacrifice the suffering of our Lady – the anguish of a mother who sees her child die in anguish and pain. For our Lord the suffering of his mother adds to the burden of the cross.

“We remember today parents and families who have recently lost their children through senseless acts of violence: the two Big Issue sellers murdered in Birmingham city centre, the young girl attacked on her way to school in Edgbaston, the children who have died in Syria. On the cross our Lord also suffered to lift and ease their burden by drawing them near to himself.

“Today we are united around the cross with our Lady of Sorrows and with each other in bonds of love and faith. We are united with all those who venerate the cross year by year – especially with those who have suffered and who have looked on the cross as a source of hope and strength.

“We are united with Christians overseas who suffer because of their faith in the cross. Pope Benedict has often reminded us in Holy Week of the suffering Christians of the Holy Land and across the Middle East.

Archbishop Bernard Longley concluded: “We always approach the cross broken and wounded but also anointed. By his wounds you have been healed. As we venerate the cross today let us be grateful that through Christ’s generous love our sins are forgiven and our broken and failing relationships with God and with each other are being healed and made whole.”


By Peter Jennings.

The Most Reverend Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham, was the Principal Celebrant and Preacher at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, held at the Metropolitan Cathedral and Basilica of St Chad, Birmingham, on Maundy Thursday, 28 March 2013.

Canon Gerry Breen, Cathedral Dean, the new Rector and priests on the staff of St Mary’s College, Oscott, the Diocesan Seminary, concelebrated the Mass with the Archbishop of Birmingham.

During his homily, Archbishop Bernard Longley said: “The particular focus of Maundy Thursday is on the last evening of Jesus’ life, eating the Passover meal with the apostles in the upper room and transforming that meal into his abiding Eucharist.

“When we describe today as Maundy Thursday we highlight the mandatum or commandment that we should follow our Lord’s example in washing the apostles’ feet. I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done.

“The washing of feet by Jesus demonstrates the radical nature of his service. It is the same as saying that there is nothing he will not do to serve us out of love and it is always linked in our minds with what he says very soon afterwards: I give you a new commandment: love one another as I have loved you. This kind of love goes beyond washing feet – it shows itself in the extreme gesture of giving everything, even life itself, out of love for others.

The quality of love that we see in Christ as he takes off his outer garment, bends down and washes the feet of the twelve has a powerful impact on our faith and on our own view of Christian service. It reminds us that as we receive the sacrificial gift of Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist we change from within and we reflect more clearly the Lord whom we follow.

The Archbishop of Birmingham concluded: “The Lord’s way of thanksgiving lies in service and self-giving. Our thanksgiving finds its source and summit in the Eucharist and its abiding image is the washing of feet. This tender gesture of Christ calls to mind the words spoken by Pope Francis at the outset of his Petrine ministry, following Peter who imitated the Lord.

“The Holy Father was reflecting on St Joseph who was first to show a father’s love to our Lord as a child. Pope Francis said: I would add one more thing: caring, protecting, demands goodness, it calls for a certain tenderness. In the Gospels, Saint Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness!”

Archbishop Longley added: “May the tenderness of Christ always inspire our service and our thanksgiving.”

Throughout the stark, simple and deeply symbolic ceremony of the Washing of the Feet, the Cathedral Choir sang the “Miserere mei, Deus, secundum magnam misericordiam tuam”, (Have mercy upon me, O God, according to your great goodness.”

Archbishop Longley, assisted by altar servers, knelt on the floor and slowly washed the right-foot of twelve men, who sat in chairs at the bottom of the sanctuary steps. As he moved along the row, the Archbishop paused briefly in front of each man and presented him with a gift of a rosary and special card.

Earlier in the day, Pope Francis washed and kissed the feet of twelve prisoners in a youth detention centre in Rome. In a remarkable break from tradition, they included two girls – an Italian Catholic and a Serbian Muslim.

The Holy Father told the inmates that Jesus washed the feet of his disciples on the eve of his crucifixion in a gesture of service.


By Peter Jennings.

The Most Reverend Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham, was the Principal Celebrant and Preacher at the Chrism Mass, held at the Metropolitan Cathedral and Basilica of St Chad, Birmingham, on the Wednesday of Holy Week, 27 March 2013.

It was a bitterly cold morning and there was still some snow on the ground outside the Cathedral but this did not deter the priests from making their way in procession outside from the crypt into the welcome warmth of the packed Cathedral.

This is the one occasion in the year when the priests from across the 224 parishes and many varied chaplaincies in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, gather together, and are the central figures, filling much of the Cathedral; with the deacons, religious and lay faithful in a supporting role.
The Archbishop of Birmingham, the auxiliary bishops and the Metropolitan Chapter also braved the unseasonal spring weather and processed from Cathedral House into and through the West Door of this Pugin gem, to the great hymn “Praise to the Holiest”, by Blessed John Henry Newman.
During a thought-provoking Chrism Mass homily, Archbishop Bernard Longley said: “It has been an eventful year since we came together in Holy Week 2012 to celebrate the Chrism Mass.

“Last October Pope Benedict inaugurated the Year of Faith as part of the Church’s celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and the twentieth anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Throughout this year we have been reflecting on the major teaching documents of the Council and asking how we have understood, interpreted and responded to them.”

The Archbishop of Birmingham said: “The very fact that we gather together in this way, to celebrate the Chrism Mass and to witness the blessing and consecration of the Church’s oils, is itself one of the liturgical fruits of the Council.

“The liturgical reforms begun by Sacrosanctum Concilium have made the ceremonies of Holy Week, and especially the Sacred Triduum, more accessible to us and to all the faithful. Those same reforms permit and encourage us as priests to concelebrate this Chrism Mass in a way that both expresses and strengthens our unity as a presbyterate.

“The ancient tradition of consecrating the Chrism and blessing the Oil of Catechumens and the Oil of the Sick was enhanced and enriched by setting it in this Mass which also highlights the Priesthood of Christ and our sacramental share in that priesthood.

“During his three years of preaching and healing our Lord’s human understanding of the mission entrusted to him by the Father grew and deepened. But even from the earliest days, following his baptism by John the Baptist, he knew himself to be the beloved Son with a message to communicate and a mission to fulfil.”

Archbishop Longley said: “This year when we come to bless and consecrate the oils we shall do so for the first time in communion with Pope Francis as Bishop of Rome and Successor of St Peter. His ministry has already touched and inspired us.

“In a simple and direct way Pope Francis has emphasised the precious gift of our anointing for the service of others. He has reminded us that as priests and deacons we must reflect the concerns and priorities of Christ if our faith is to be authentic.”

Archbishop Longley said: “The circumstances of the conclave leading to the joyful election of Pope Francis also reminded us that the Church is in constant need of purification and renewal if she is to remain true to the mission of her Lord.”

The Archbishop of Birmingham stressed: “In the midst of scandal and adversity we ourselves need the balm of holy oil before our vision is clear enough to reach out with these oils to others. Sacramental anointing highlights the three theological virtues of faith, hope and love which we receive as gifts of grace. In our priestly ministry, when we anoint others, we are privileged with the task of enabling these virtues to deepen in the lives of those we serve.”

The Archbishop said: “Of all the beautiful ceremonies of this Holy Week, when we participate in the sacred drama of the Lord’s passion and resurrection, the Chrism Mass deserves to stand out for its unique focus on the Priesthood of Jesus Christ and on the way that he has chosen to make his priesthood available to the people of our own time and place.

“Each moment of the Sacred Triduum, which we begin tomorrow, expresses some facet of the Lord’s priesthood: as he institutes the Eucharist at his Last Supper and offers the sacrifice of his life on the cross – as he rises from the dead at Easter and promises us new life through the outpouring of his Holy Spirit.”

Archbishop Bernard Longley concluded: “As we celebrate this Mass of Chrism and come to renew our Priestly Promises we also pause to pray for vocations – to married life, to religious life, to the permanent diaconate, but especially today for vocations to the priesthood.

“With so many of us praying for this intention we should feel encouraged by Blessed Dominic Barberi, our diocesan patron for the Year of Faith, who said: I consider it should be held as a maxim that when God stirs the hearts of many to ask for any one thing it is an evident sign that he wishes to grant it.”

At the Renewal of Priestly Promises, Archbishop Bernard Longley asked his priests if they were ready to renew the promises they once made. They responded with a great “I am”. The word of each was the resolution of all. It was a deeply poignant moment.

The Procession and Blessing of the Oils followed. The oil of the sick was accompanied by a doctor from the Lourdes Pilgrimage. The oil of Catechumen was accompanied by a Catechist. The oil of Chrism was carried by a deacon, who will receive the Sacrament of Ordination to the Priesthood later this year and was accompanied by candidates preparing to be confirmed.

The Chrism Mass is an important and memorable occasion in the life of the Archdiocese of Birmingham each year.


By Peter Jennings.

The Most Reverend Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham, said today, Monday 14 January: “I was shocked and immensely saddened to hear of the brutal killing in Birmingham city centre on Friday (11 January) of the two Big Issue sellers.

“This senseless and unwarranted attack on two vulnerable people – Wayne Busst and Ian Watson-Gladwish – is bewildering and it highlights the problems that homeless and jobless people face in our city.”

The Archbishop of Birmingham, said: “Wherever their families and friends may be, my thoughts and prayers are with them at this time, together with those who have offered each of them support and friendship here in Birmingham.”

Archbishop Longley added: “I pray that this tragic event may make us all more aware of the hardships faced by individuals and families looking for a permanent home or for work at this time of the year.

“I hope these terrible murders in Birmingham will encourage us to see homeless or jobless people as our brothers and sisters.

“I encourage people to support the voluntary agencies throughout Birmingham and the West Midlands that are trying to steer people towards permanent accommodation and work opportunities.”


Archbishop Longley tells young pilgrims “Do not be afraid!”
By Peter Jennings and Kevin Grant.

For a second day large numbers of young pilgrims, pilgrims too of all ages, flowed from all parts of the Archdiocese of Birmingham and from further afield to venerate the Relics of Don Bosco, St John Bosco (1815-1888), the great saint for Italian youth, at the Metropolitan Cathedral and Basilica of St Chad, Birmingham, on Wednesday, 9 January 2013.

The casket bearing the life-size effigy of Don Bosco which contains the right hand of the saint was sealed in Turin before beginning its six-year journey throughout the world. The casket weighing nearly a ton includes in the inscription running round its base the saint’s inspiring words: “Da mihi animas; caetera tolle” (“Give me souls, take everything else away”).

Archbishop Bernard Longley was the chief celebrant and preacher. At the altar with him was Bishop Emeritus Philip Pargeter, Fr Martin Coyle SDB, Provincial of the Salesians in Great Britain, and Father Peter Brealey SDB, parish priest of the only Salesian parish in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, Our Lady Help of Christians in Cowley, Oxford.

Approaching the altar Archbishop Longley knelt in brief prayer with his concelebrants before the casket, kissing it as he rose.

The Archbishop of Birmingham warmly welcomed all the pilgrims present before beginning the Mass. Four young sentinels held huge Don Bosco banners which they paraded forward at the Procession of the Gifts. On this second day the heart of the congregation were people from the secondary schools throughout the Archdiocese; the day before had been the turn of the primary schoolchildren.

In his homily Archbishop Longley said: “We are fortunate that we catch a very special moment in the history of Don Bosco and the religious Congregation that he founded, the Salesians. The visit of Don Bosco’s relics is part of a six-year programme that sees the relics travel across all five continents in preparation for the 200th anniversary of St John Bosco’s birth in 2015.

“As part of the preparation for that special occasion Don Bosco’s relics have come to us so that we can draw close to this saint for young people and be inspired by his life.”

The Archbishop of Birmingham said: “Concerned for the well-being and education of the young people in Turin Don Bosco gave them opportunities to deepen their knowledge and love of Jesus Christ. The saint was also blessed with the kind of personality that made young people feel at ease in his company.”

In his concluding words, directed particularly to the young in the congregation, Archbishop Longley urged: “Be inspired by Don Bosco’s life to let the words of Jesus ring true for you. Live your faith with confidence, especially in this Year of Faith, and recognising the presence of Jesus, do not be afraid.”

The congregation in the packed Cathedral joined enthusiastically in singing the hymns and the parts of the Mass, one line from the Don Bosco hymn “Friend of the Young” capturing the character of this Patron Saint of Young People: “A humble man with many dreams, loved by everyone”.

Among the concelebrants at the Mass were Mgr Marcus Stock, General Secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, priests of the Archdiocese of Birmingham and members of the Salesian congregation in Great Britain, including Fr David O’Malley, their Vice-Provincial.

The surprising and extraordinary devotion shown during this visit of the Relics of Don Bosco evoked memories of the time that the relics of “The Little Flower”, St Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-1897) were brought to St Chad’s Cathedral, during September 2009. Both these pilgrim tours have drawn on deep aquifers of faith which bind and characterise the Catholic community in Britain today.

The Relics of Don Bosco began their journey to Cardiff following the closing liturgy at 6pm in St Chad’s Cathedral.

St John Bosco died in Turin on 31 January 1888, aged 72. A large proportion of the population of the Northern Italian city turned out for his funeral. He was declared Blessed in 1929 and Canonised by Pope Pius XI on Easter Sunday, 1 April 1934.

For more information see:

Young Pilgrims Flock to Visit Relics of St John Bosco, at St Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham

By Peter Jennings.

Large numbers of young pilgrims, indeed, pilgrims of all ages, from throughout the Archdiocese of Birmingham and beyond, flocked to venerate the relics of St John Bosco (1815-1888) the great Italian, at the Metropolitan Cathedral and Basilica of St Chad, Birmingham, yesterday, Tuesday 8 January 2013.

There is another opportunity today, Wednesday, 8 January, to be part of an inspirational pilgrimage and to see the casket that contains the right-hand of St John Bosco, during its two-week tour of the UK. Archbishop Bernard Longley will be celebrating Mass and preaching at 12.15pm in St Chad’s Cathedral.

In his welcome before the arrival of the relics, Archbishop Bernard Longley said: “It is a privilege for the Archdiocese of Birmingham to welcome the relics of St John Bosco at St Chad’s Cathedral. This great Salesian saint, who was affectionately known as Don Bosco, is a wonderful model of priestly concern for young people in our local church communities.

“The visit of his relics to Birmingham will be an enormous encouragement to parents and grandparents concerned about passing on their faith to the next generation as well as to teachers and all those involved in the education of young people across the Archdiocese.”

The Archbishop of Birmingham added: “As we gather over these two days to pray in the presence of Don Bosco’s relics, it will be an opportunity to give thanks for the powerful witness of so many young Catholics in the Midlands.

“We are truly blessed that young Catholics in our parishes and schools make their faith in Jesus Christ a priority in their lives and that they are willing to give so much time and energy for the Church’s mission and outreach. May the prayers and example of Saint John Bosco encourage them more and more during the Year of Faith.”
Archbishop Bernard Longley was the principal celebrant at 12.15pm Mass in St Chad’s Cathedral, yesterday, packed to capacity with primary school children and their teachers, from schools throughout the Archdiocese of Birmingham.

During a challenging homily Fr Martin Coyle SDB, Provincial of the Great Britain Province, emphasised that St Don Bosco, who is the Patron Saint of schoolchildren and young people, “was a great saint, who was always cheerful.”

Fr Coyle asked each of the pilgrims present to turn to the person next to them and smile at them for five seconds. He said: “It is infectious and it spreads. People have to try very hard not to smile back. It makes a difference to someone else’s life.”

He concluded: “It’s quite simple to be holy – by being happy, not long faces. We need to share joy with one another. Try to be cheerful each day and smile at someone. Others will join in and it will make a difference!”

St John Bosco, founder of the Salesian Order, was born on 16 August 1815 in Piedmont, Italy the youngest son of a peasant farmer who died when he was only two. His mother brought him up in extreme poverty. When he entered the seminary in 1831, his clothes and shoes were provided by charity.

He was ordained in 1841 and originally dreamed of becoming a foreign missionary, but soon settled into what became his life’s work – teaching young men and boys mainly in Turin.
He then went to live with his mother and 40 street boys. More and more boys came to stay. By 1856 there were more than 150 living in the centre and 500 children who came to visit daily. John set up day and evening classes for them, recruiting ten priests as teachers, and he established workshops to train them to become tailors and shoemakers.

A cheerful personality, John Bosco developed a reputation for being a visionary and “wonder-worker”, with a particular gift for handling difficult youths. He never used any form of punishment, but was kind and firm.

On Sundays he used to take boys on trips into the countryside, with Mass to start with, followed by breakfast, open air picnics, games and vespers, before going home. He believed natural beauty and music were very important for the development of young people.

In 1859 he began to organise his Congregation which was formally approved in 1874. He also helped set up similar schools for girls.

By the time of his death during 1888 there were 768 members in 64 houses around the world. Today there are many thousands, with schools as well as seminaries.

St John Bosco died in Turin on 31 January 1888, aged 72. A large proportion of the population of the Northern Italian city turned out for his funeral He was declared Blessed in 1929 and Canonised by Pope Pius XI on Easter Sunday, 1 April 1934.

For more information see:


By Peter Jennings.

Archbishop Bernard Longley spoke about the particular devotion that Cardinal Newman had to the Blessed Virgin Mary, during his homily at Mass on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Saturday, 8 December, in St Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham, UK.

The Archbishop of Birmingham: “Two years ago, following the Beatification of Blessed John Henry Newman the Birmingham Art Gallery and Museum assembled an exhibition of some of his personal belongings. Among them was a beautiful enamelled picture of our Lady under the title of the Immaculate Conception.

“It was a reminder of his particular devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and his understanding that her Immaculate Conception helps us to deepen in our understanding of the Incarnation of Christ her Son.”

Archbishop Longley said: “Cardinal Newman reflected on the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception in the context of his own journey of faith in becoming a Catholic. He emphasised the importance of seeing this doctrine as part of the greater whole of Christian faith.

“In a letter written in 1860 he said: Catholics do not view it as a substantive and independent doctrine, so much as one of a family of doctrines which are intimately united together. The truth we recognise in our Lady’s life sheds light on the work of saving grace in our own lives.”

The Archbishop emphasised: “The question addressed by God to Adam in the Book of Genesis is also addressed to Mary and to us: Where are you? Our Lady’s vision was not clouded by sin and she was able to offer an honest and truthful answer to that question.

“It is the angel Gabriel who speaks on her behalf when he announces: Hail Mary, full of grace: the Lord is with you. Mary is always in the presence of the Lord for whoever truly serves him is always close to him: I am the handmaid of the Lord.

“Mary was prayerful and reflected on her life’s experiences: she pondered these things in her heart. Pope Benedict has recently written of this pondering of Mary as an interior conversation. No doubt, as the life of her Son unfolded before her, she looked back and understood the meaning of what she had seen and heard and felt.

“St Luke does not disguise the fact that our Lady, even though she was full of grace, was deeply disturbed by the angel’s words. This was a natural, human reaction of bewilderment and astonishment. Such a powerful message made her see the reality of her life and accept God’s invitation.”

Archbishop Bernard Longley concluded his homily on one of the two Patronal Feasts of the Archdiocese: “Because of her Immaculate Conception Mary’s ear was finely tuned to the voice of God throughout her life. In the encounter with Gabriel, God showed her where she stood and her response was prayerful obedience: Let it be done to me according to your word.

“As we reflect prayerfully with our Lady today may we be granted the same insight to know where we stand in God’s love and so come to share her confidence in God’s plan for the future and her readiness to accept it.”


Between August 2010 and November 2012, St. Chad’s Sanctuary was visited nearly 19,000 times. (We count the numbers who have signed our visitors’ book!) Many are asylum seekers who have recently arrived from situations of great violence and persecution. We have welcomed over 100 nationalities. The majority are from Sudan, Iran and Eritrea and, more recently, from Syria. Some are still wearing the clothes they wore during their long and often dangerous journey to Britain. They really are the picture of misery, often made worse by our seasonal weather when they walk from the immigration hostel to the Sanctuary, sometimes carrying young children, a journey of 45 minutes – when they know the way!

They are the most heart-broken people I have ever met. Not only are they grieving for their families and homelands but they are totally bewildered in a country and a culture so different from their own. Not understanding what they are saying may seem an insurmountable obstacle but communicating with the heart is the same in every language. More than anything, they need to be met with compassion and with a deep respect for their dignity as human beings. They all need a warm welcome and then some suitable clothing. To date, we have given out nearly 3,000 bags of clothes and shoes and we have dressed many from the skin out. Unfortunately we often do not have garments to fit because most asylum seekers are very thin.

We continue to give priority to those who are destitute i.e. they are homeless and have no recourse to public funds. This results in their having no access to hostels for the homeless so that they become ‘sofa surfers’ among their friends or sleep on the street. They come to us from all over the Midlands often walking miles as bus tickets cost money!

The Latin for destitute translates as ‘abandoned’ and this is much closer to their reality. In fact, I believe that they are the most ignored and nameless people in our society. We continue to be amazed by their resilience in the face of so much hopelessness since they have very little hope of anything better anytime soon. Life and its opportunities are just passing them by. Yet, we are constantly humbled by their graciousness and their strong faith and trust in a loving God. ‘Inshallah’ is a word we have come to know very well at St. Chad’s Sanctuary.

Going back to their countries is not an option, both because they are in fear for their lives and often because it is not a practical possibility. We give them bags of dried and tinned food, which they can share with their friends; our statistics show that we gave out 2,782 bags up to the end of October. They also need items of male and female hygiene, which we supply regularly.

Destitute asylum seekers put me in mind of Someone who said: ‘Foxes have holes, the birds of the air have nests but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head’ (Luke 9:58). I remember feeling a shock when I read somewhere that Jesus was a homeless baby born to parents who were sleeping rough and that the family then had to flee for their lives before the murderous intent of Herod, to become refugees in Egypt. Indeed, if looking for the ‘Child of the Manger’, the best place to search is summed up in the following verse: “You will find me as ever, with blind and with beggar, the hungry and hopeless, the broken in heart. At home with the homeless, I dine with the outcast, and if you receive me, then there I shall be.”(A.J. Lewis).This is a far cry from the usual tinsel- strewn and fairytale images we have of the Infant Jesus. It is interesting how many of Jesus’ parables feature homeless people e.g. Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16:19-31), some of those invited to the great banquet (Luke14:15-24) and indeed many of those described in the final judgement with whom he himself identified (Matt 25:31-46).

At the Sanctuary our ESOL (English to speakers of other languages) classes are full and we have a waiting list. We offer places mostly to those who cannot get into college; all the tutors are volunteers. It is wonderful to see the progress our students make and they are always a joy to teach. It can also be very challenging work because in the same group we may well have students who have never been to school and others who have university degrees and a lot of professional experience. They are always very kind and helpful towards one another and that makes our task much easier. These students usually make rapid progress and soon they are celebrating exam success. Earlier in the year we received a small grant to run a creative English course and later celebrated when several of our students had their poetry published.

We have much to celebrate at the Sanctuary. Every now and again, people receive the news that they have ‘leave to remain’ and this puts hope into every heart! We share in their excitement when they begin to set up their own homes, and indeed we are often able to help with ‘starter packs’ including curtains, bedclothes and kitchen essentials. And then there are the budding romances and on occasion we have helped dress the bride or groom! We are often among the first to see the newborn babies and indeed now have so many ‘god’ children that we could put Mother Hubbard to shame!

I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank the many supporters of the Sanctuary. First of all, to an amazing team who work so hard and so generously to provide the many services we offer and who keep the place so clean, warm and welcoming! And we couldn’t do any of this but for the generosity of individuals, parishes, schools and other groups throughout the West Midlands and some further afield. Thanks to you, we always have something to offer those who come for help, and money in the bank! But for the generosity of the Salvation Army who have provided the building and the great support of St. Chad’s cathedral we would not exist. I just wish you all could experience the gratitude of our visitors; be assured that you are in their prayers and always in ours.

Margaret Walsh IJS (Manager), December 3rd 2012.

St. Chad’s Sanctuary
72 – 74 Shadwell Street,
Birmingham B4 6HA

0121 233 2127
Reg. Charity No. 1146151


By Peter Jennings.

The 2012 Nativity Trail, the story of Christmas through 500 years of art, at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, was commended by Archbishop Bernard Longley, Bishop David Urquhart, the Anglican Bishop of Birmingham, and the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, at an official launch, on Friday, 30 November.

Speaking in the Round Room, the Archbishop of Birmingham described the Nativity Trail, now in its eighth year, and the large Christmas Crib, situated in the popular German Christmas Market outside as: “A little sign of what it means to believe in Jesus in the market place”.

Archbishop Longley emphasised that the leaders of other faiths in Birmingham all supported and respected the Nativity Trail and the Christmas crib, as Christians of various traditions respected the faiths and festivals of others.

School choirs from Christ the King Catholic Primary School and St John’s Church of England Primary School sang Christmas carols and songs throughout the afternoon.

Among the senior clergy accompanying Archbishop Bernard Longley, were Mgr Canon Timothy Menezes, Vicar General, Canon Gerry Breen, Dean of St Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham, and Mgr Canon Patrick Browne, Parish Priest of St Anne, Alcester Street, near Birmingham city centre.

The relationship between Birmingham City Council and the Birmingham Faith Leaders Group has improved out of all recognition since the late 1990’s when the City Council tried to abolish Christmas and replace it with the meaningless festival called “Winterval”.

It was a bad move and attracted a lot of negative media coverage. The public perception was that Birmingham City Council was trying to secularise the feast of Christmas to the abhorrence not only of Christians, but also of members of other faiths throughout Birmingham, a vibrant and multicultural city.

After the official launch of the Nativity Trail, the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Councillor John Lines and the Lady Mayoress, Mrs Kathleen Lines, Archbishop Bernard Longley and Bishop David Urquhart, were shown round the galleries by Professor Ann Sumner, Director of Birmingham Museums Trust, and Victoria Osborne, Curator of Fine Art.

The distinguished guests paused in the quietness of gallery 25, in front of the Nativity Trail – The Rest on the Flight into Egypt, c1620 by Orazio Gentileschi (1563-1639) – for a picture to mark a memorable occasion amid the noise, busyness and hurly-burly life of the City of Birmingham at Christmas.

The Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery leaflet about the Nativity Trail states: “Gentileschi’s painting shows the Holy Family as weary refugees, emphasising their humanity and vulnerability at this moment.”
During April 2012, Birmingham Museums and Art Galley joined forces with Thinktank and Birmingham Science Museum to form the UK’s largest independent museums trust.
*The Nativity Trail is open to the public at Birmingham Museum & Art Galley until 6 January 2013. Admission is free.


By Peter Jennings.

The Most Reverend Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham, gave the following homily during the Annual Civic Mass, at the Metropolitan Cathedral & Basilica of St Chad, Birmingham, on the Solemnity of Christ the King, Sunday, 25 November 2012.

All who are on the side of truth listen to my voice

One of the distinctive characteristics of the civic year in Birmingham is the sequence of religious services arranged and celebrated for the good of our city. Each act of worship, while giving thanks and glory to God, also recognises the role of those who serve the common good in public life. Faith communities recognise that life in the public forum can be demanding as well as rewarding and our first response is to pray for the intentions of those who serve in this way.

This round of prayer continues throughout the year but it finds its most conspicuous expression whenever the civic family gathers together in cathedral, mosque, synagogue or temple in a communal moment of petition and thanksgiving.

That is one of the remarkable characteristics of this city that first struck me when I arrived in Birmingham three years ago. Civic leaders, the judiciary, diplomats and those representing the public services upon which we all depend are regularly made welcome by the wide variety of faith communities that make up the religious profile of our city.

This city is richly blessed with a diversity of faith communities who hold each other in mutual respect and who seek to work together for the good of our neighbours whether or not they subscribe to any system of religious belief. They are committed to dialogue with one another and wherever it is possible to witness together to the values and beliefs that we hold in common.

The Birmingham Faith Leaders Group is an expression of this commitment and we appreciate the support we receive from the City Council and our annual opportunity to meet in the Council House under the Chairmanship of the Lord Mayor.

This experience of good ecumenical, inter-religious and civic relations was immensely helpful to me when I recently attended an international Synod of Bishops in Rome convened by Pope Benedict XVI. Its focus was the New Evangelization, or how to put across the message of Christian faith in a way that will be understood and well-received – an evangelization that is new in its ardour, methods and expression in the words of Blessed Pope John Paul II.

Among those new methods we were encouraged to embrace new technology, to make careful and discerning use of new forms of personal communication such as podcasts and blogs, so as to reach the younger generation. Every faith community is concerned with the transmission of faith across the generations, sharing values and insights that help to hold our communities together. Whenever families are united in their beliefs they also contribute to social cohesion within their local neighbourhoods.

Faith leaders also represent traditions that respect the rule of law while preserving the right to reflect critically on the principles that underpin our laws. The wisdom of the scriptures and traditions that we have received and the experience of many generations of believers have significant consequences for our contribution to the common good. We have inherited a responsibility to offer critical insights, based upon values received through faith, to those who formulate and interpret our laws, and always offered with due respect to the responsible authorities.

The strong support of many of our Churches and faith communities for the traditional understanding of marriage cannot be overlooked. This message from the faith communities is a reminder that the Government needs to listen carefully to the voices of ordinary people.

It cannot be presumed that everyone is in favour of same-sex marriage because a vocal minority has captured the attention of the media. At the same time faith communities must welcome a wider public debate in which we can dialogue with those who oppose our views.

Any civic occasion hosted by a religious community provides a moment of dialogue between those who gather as partners in a common enterprise. We have a chance to reveal ourselves to each other more effectively in the face of current challenges and the demands of our time.

Each civic service provides a glimpse into the life of the faith community offering its welcome. It also enables that faith community to listen to the common concerns of our fellow citizens as they are heard and discerned by those in public life who are charged with making a response.

As well as praying for your intentions the ancient faiths represented in our city also have long experience of equipping people to live lives that achieve personal fulfilment and that contribute greatly to the good of their neighbours. It is a source of pride that so many of those who volunteer their time and expertise in charitable activities across the city are also members of its faith communities.

The faith communities in Birmingham are often among the first to recognise emerging social needs within our local communities. Many of them have initiated and are involved in local projects that are making a practical contribution towards building a revived culture of social responsibility.

Ecumenical partnerships have also drawn the churches together in a common endeavour to help tackle poverty and the ills of social exclusion. One local example of this, only a couple of years old, is St Chad’s Sanctuary, behind this cathedral in Shadwell Street and next door to the William Booth Centre.

It is a modest but effective project, initiated by the Salvation Army and the Catholic Church, but now supported by people from many different religious congregations and people of good will and with generous hearts. It has brought together many volunteers to provide a place of welcome and friendship for those seeking support and guidance from the Refugee Council just along the road.

Good will and generous hearts – that is a combination that can achieve much, and I am sure that each of us in our particular spheres of activity recognises this powerful combination in the words and actions of friends and colleagues. In one of the hymns sung today we call upon Jesus as king to rule our hearts and minds and wills. This request emerges from the Christian belief in the Kingdom of God where the benevolent rule of Christ will one day be willingly embraced by all people.

In that Kingdom the usual understanding of power is upturned. Jesus tells the Roman Governor, Pilate: Mine is not a kingdom of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my men would have fought to prevent my being surrendered. From the very beginning of his life, even in the circumstances of his birth at Bethlehem, Jesus demonstrated that his power lay in loving service, founded on his obedience to the will of his Father. Pope Benedict emphasised this when reflecting on the Feast of Christmas. He said:

In the Grotto of Bethlehem God shows himself to us as a humble “infant” to defeat our arrogance. Perhaps we would have submitted more easily to power and wisdom, but he does not want us to submit; rather, he appeals to our hearts and to our free decision to accept his love. He made himself tiny to set us free from that human claim to grandeur that results from pride. He became flesh freely in order to set us truly free, free to love him.

With the season of Christmas now so close I am delighted that the German market has provided the city centre with the most beautiful crib scene depicting the story of Christmas and the birth of the saviour as a reminder of God’s love to all who pass it.

I am also grateful that the City’s Museum and Art Gallery is once again preparing the Nativity Trail, to be opened this Friday and enabling visitors to experience and appreciate the story at the heart of Christian faith through the beauty and the message of great works of art. These offer two little examples of the opportunities before us to work more closely together for the common good.

Once again, I thank you all for being here at St Chad’s today. May God’s blessing be upon all those who serve this city in public office as we now commend them to the Lord in the prayers of this Civic Mass.

At the start of the Civic Mass Archbishop Bernard Longley welcomed the distinguished civic visitors present. They included the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Councillor John Lines and the Lady Mayoress, Mrs Kathleen Lines; Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant for the County of the West Midlands Mr Paul Sabapathy; the High Sheriff, Mr Stewart Towe; High Court Judges, Mr Justice Barling and Mr Justice Saunders; Circuit Judges, Recorders and Birmingham Magistrates; representatives of the police and fire service; local MP, Ms Gisela Stuart; MEP Malcolm Harbour; Consuls and CityCouncillors, together with members of the Birmingham Faith Leaders Group.

Judge Elizabeth Fisher, a Birmingham Circuit Judge, dedicated the second reading from the book of the Apocalypse to the late Judge Derek Stanley, a former Master of Ceremonies at St Chad’s Cathedral, whose initiative it was to invite the judges to attend the Civic Service.

The beautiful Kyrie & Gloria, Sanctus, and Agnus Die from the Mass in Honour of St Joseph, together with the Jubilate Die, by Flor Peeters (1903-1986) the renowned Belgian composer, organist and teacher, were sung by the St Chad’s Cathedral Singers, conducted by Professor David Saint, Organist and Director of Music.

During Communion, the choir sang the Ave Verum with music by Colin Mawby, former Master of the Music at Westminster Cathedral.

Before the final blessing Archbishop Bernard Longley gave a special word of thanks to Canon Gerry Breen, the Cathedral Dean, his staff and dedicated team of volunteers.

The National Anthem was sung and the joyful sound of the final hymn, Christ is made the sure foundation, reverberated throughout every corner of St Chad’s Cathedral. It was a memorable and inspirational occasion in the life of the Archdiocese of Birmingham in this Year of Faith, inaugurated by Pope Benedict XVI, in Rome during October.

Words of Welcome for the Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa

It is our joy to welcome to Saint Chad’s Cathedral thispowerful image of Our Lady of Czestochowa, the Black Madonna.

The remarkable pilgrimage of this Icon began in Russia and Kazakhstan and will end at the Marian Shrine of Fatima in December. As the geographical journey reaches its end, we pray that the spiritual pilgrimage will continue in the hearts and lives of those graced by this Icon.

On behalf of Archbishop Bernard Longley, who cannot be with us, I welcome all of you, in particular our friends from Poland, who come to honour the Patroness of their homeland. Together we extend our greetings to our brothers and sisters from the Russian and Romanian Orthodox Communities from across our diocese and beyond who will lead us in the singing of Vespers (Evening Prayer) later this evening. It is good for us to be here to pray with one another in the company of Theotokos, Mary, the Mother of God.

How timely it is too, that this Ocean to Ocean Pilgrimage of the Icon of Our lady of Czestochowa takes place at the beginning of the Year of Faith inaugurated by His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI during a Month of Mary, the month of October.

The recently concluded Synod of Bishops in Rome, attended by Archbishop Bernard as one of the Synod Fathers along with his colleagues on the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelisation, considered how we may deepen our baptismal faith, and with a new confidence witness to that faith in our families and the society in which we live and work by renewing our relationship with the person of Jesus Christ and his Church.

Pope Benedict called for the ‘re-proposing of the Gospel to those regions awaiting the First Evangelisation, and to those regions where the roots of Christianity are deep – but have experienced a serious crisis of faith due to secularisation.’

The Synod also referred to Mary as the ‘Star of the New Evangelisation’. This title used often by Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict, speaks of Mary as the First Evangelist and Disciple of the Lord. The task of any disciple or evangelist is not to speak of ‘self’ but of Jesus Christ; and to lead others to encounter him within the experience of their daily lives.

There is another beautiful title of Mary which is associated with this Icon of Czestochowa, and that title is from the Greek ‘Hodegetria’ – which in English translates as ‘One who shows the way.’

In this Icon we see the Blessed Virgin directing attention away from herself by gesturing with her right hand towards Jesus as the source of Salvation – the logos, the Living Word of God.

In turn, the Christ Child extends his right hand towards us who gaze upon him– as if to impart a blessing, while holding in his left hand the written word of God, the Holy Gospel.

Mary, as Hodegetria, is never the Way, but she gently points to him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, Jesus her Divine Son.

Mary, the Star of the New Evangelisation, invites us once more to turn our hearts and lives to her Son as we pray the Psalter of Mary, the Holy Rosary.

We offer the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary for the Child in the Womb and the work of the Pro-Life movements which is the focus of the Icon’s Pilgrimage. As we do so; we recall that God, to complete His work for our Salvation, entered into humanity in all its frailty and brokenness in order to redeem it. This He did as His Son was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in the most vulnerable of places the womb of a mother, the womb of the Virgin.

As we begin this time of grace, we pray together the prayer to Mary, Star of the New Evangelisation:

Mary, Star of the New Evangelisation
Holy Mary, Star of the New Evangelisation,
make us the light of the world.

Teach us to do whatever he tells us.
May our study of his life lead us to love him;
and our love for him lead us to imitate him.

If we are what we should be,
we will set the world ablaze and affect the culture.

We ask your intercession to make this so.

Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Canon Gerry Breen
Dean of St. Chad’s Cathedral

Palace of Pugin Book Launch

At St Chad’s Association Annual Dinner on Thursday 8th November

The historical novel, Palace of Pugin, by Nick Corbett, will be launched at Saint Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham, on 8th November 2012. The author will be signing copies and will give a talk about the book at the annual dinner of the Saint Chad’s Cathedral Association.

Saint Chad’s Cathedral, located on the edge of Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, is an integral part of the Pugin story, and a key location in Corbett’s novel. Pugin treasures from the Cathedral’s private collection will be on display at the book signing event.

Palace of Pugin is the compelling true story of a remarkable man, Augustus Pugin. It reveals the passion and betrayal behind the building of Britain’s most iconic building, the Palace of Westminster.

Palace of PuginSpeaking to The Basilican Nick Corbett said, “Pugin shared a vision with Prince Albert, and a group of young industrialists, to transform society. Their mission was to rebuild Britain to the glory of God, starting with Parliament.”

He continues. “I believe it’s fitting for the Palace of Pugin to be launched at Saint Chads. When Pugin was building the Cathedral, the bones of Saint Chad were rediscovered in a safe house, and were taken to Oscott College in Birmingham. Bishop Walsh took the bones in a casket designed by Pugin, in a procession from Oscott to the new Cathedral. This chain of events reminds me of Joseph in the Old Testament, who gave instructions for his bones to be taken back home to Canaan, so he’d remain part of his people’s story. Saint Chad remains part of our people’s story, and now, 200 years after his birth, Pugin is also being remembered.”

Nick adds, “Pugin showed how the industrial revolution didn’t just have to be about mass production. It could also be about truth, beauty, and social justice. He was the forerunner of the Arts and Crafts movement.

“Pugin’s life was short but eventful. When he was just twenty-one, his wife died and he became a single parent. His mother and father died from different causes in the preceding year. He was married three times. His final days are truly tumultuous. It’s a life story that pulls at the heartstrings, but he finds love, and he leaves a remarkable legacy.”

Nick will also be signing copies of the sequel, Arden – which has been described as ‘Friends meets Grand Designs’ – it is a coming of age story that reveals how Pugin’s legacy lives on in contemporary Britain.

Signed copies of both Palace of Pugin and Arden will be available, at a reduced price, at the launch event.

Visit of the Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa

St. Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham

Friday 9th November – Saturday 10th November.

Friday 9th

4.30pm – Liturgy of Welcome for the Icon. Rosary and Marian Litany followed by private veneration and prayer.

7pm – Vespers (Evening Prayer) led by the Clergy and people from the Orthodox communities, followed by private veneration and prayer.

Saturday 10th

8am – Private veneration and prayer.

10am – Mass with the Polish Community followed by the departure of the Icon.

We would appreciate help from our priests with the Sacrament of Reconciliation please.

More information will be sent to nearer the date. Thank you.


By Peter Jennings.

Bishop William Kenney CP, Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham was principal celebrant at a special Mass of Thanksgiving in the Metropolitan Cathedral of St Chad, Birmingham, on Tuesday 11 September, to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of his Ordination to the Episcopate.

Bishop Kenney, a member of the Passionist Congregation, founded by St Paul of the Cross, was ordained bishop in Stockholm on 24 August 1987 and appointed Auxiliary Bishop and Vicar General of the Diocese. He had been ordained to the priesthood in St Chad’s Cathedral on 29 June 1969.

Archbishop Bernard Longley welcomed Bishop Kenney, Titular Bishop of Midica, Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham, and members of his spiritual family from Sweden where he served until his appointment to the Archdiocese of Birmingham during October 2006.

Among the concelebrants at the Mass of Thanksgiving was Bishop Anders Arborelius OCD of Stockholm, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, Archbishop Antonio Mennini, Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain, and members of the hierarchy of England and Wales.
Bishop Philip Pargeter, Emeritus Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham, and priests from parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Birmingham, in particular Coventry, Warwickshire and Oxfordshire, the areas where Bishop Kenney has Pastoral oversight also concelebrated, with Permanent Deacons assisting.

Friends and colleagues, religious sisters and lay faithful from various areas of Bishop Kenney’s life and work, including COMECE, Caritas International and CAFOD, were in the congregation.
Appropriately among the hymns chosen by Bishop Kenney was ‘Praise to the Holiest in the height’, and ‘Lead, kindly light’, two of the best-known hymns written by Blessed John Henry Newman. Dr Newman was received into the Catholic Church by the Italian Passionist, Fr (now) Blessed Dominic Barberi CP, at Littlemore, near Oxford, on 9 October 1845.

Sr Madeleine Fredell OP read the second reading in Swedish.

Fr Timothy Radcliffe OP. former Master of the Dominicans, preached on the theme “What it means to be a good bishop”, at the request of Bishop Kenney.
During a thought-provoking homily, Fr Radcliffe said: “In the Gospel, Jesus prays ‘that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one.’ The bishop should gather us into unity, practising what Paul calls the ‘ministry of reconciliation.’ This is a healing ministry, overcoming division in society and in the Church, in the parishes and the diocese, and with the Universal Church.”

Fr Radcliffe emphasised: “This is not any sort of unity. It is the unity of the Triune God. The Father shares with the Son and the Spirit, everything, even complete divinity. And so the bishop is charged with building a unity that undoes inequality, which strengthens the weak, which purifies the community of domination and humiliation.

“Bishops are ordained to govern. Obviously this involves a lot of administration, letter writing, meetings, taking of difficult decisions. But Christian government is ultimately at the service of the rule of God, not the rule of the bishop.”

Fr Radcliffe stressed: “In our culture of control, the Church should be an oasis of freedom, for we believe in God’s rule. The bishop’s rule, I believe, is always about opening the space for God’s rule.

“God’s rule works through the Holy Spirit which is poured into every member of the Body of Christ. So the bishop’s government is about helping the timid to speak up, the minority to have their word, the despised to be heard with respect and most especially those who disagree with you. It is not about control, but opening the space for God’s surprising grace.”

Fr Radcliffe added: “The trouble is that when one starts to speak the truth, one is likely to stir up controversy, provoke division, and your desk will be deep in angry letters. The greatest challenge for Church leadership today is to how to speak truthfully and preserve unity. If you take a strong stand on a moral issue, then the media will fall upon you, and if you question what the Church has so far taught, and explore some new development then you will stir up a storm. How can you both speak the truth and keep unity? How can we be one without being fuzzy?”

Fr Radcliff concluded: “This requires of us a deep confidence in the great teachings of our faith. It also requires a vast humility in the face of the mystery of God’s love, which is always beyond our grasp. We are a teaching Church, entrusted with the great doctrines of the Trinity, the divinity of Christ. We must dare to teach these with confidence, otherwise our religion will just become tedious moralisation.

“We must also be humble in the face of God’s mystery, beggars after the truth, eager for what anyone can teach us, regardless of whether they are Christian or not. We should be attuned to the creative thinkers, the novelists and filmmakers, the poets and song writers, the wise men and women, for what they can teach us.

“Faced with the strange mixture of wisdom and stupidity of our contemporary society, let us not be defensive and afraid. If we are, we shall just become an embattled little sect. Let us gather in the wisdom of even the most unlikely people. Then we shall gather people into the unity of God’s love, which has a place for everyone.”

Before the final blessing Archbishop Antonio Mennini, Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain, warmly thanked Bishop William Kenny CP, on behalf of the Holy Father, and also on his own behalf, for his 25 years of devoted service to the Catholic Church as a bishop.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, also added his heart-felt thanks to Bishop William Kenney.

It was Archbishop Nichols, Archbishop of Birmingham 2000-2009, who had the foresight to bring Bishop William Kenney back to Birmingham, where he grew-up in the parish of St Mary & St John, Gravelly Hill, and attended St Philips Grammar School, next to the Birmingham Oratory, founded by Blessed John Henry Newman.

Archbishop Nichols revealed that he had first spotted Bishop William Kenney during the 1994 Ordinary International Synod of Bishops in Rome on the theme of Religious Life.

Bishop William Kenney, a person of irrepressible energy, particularly in the area of justice and peace, concluded with some words of thanks to various people before he gave the final blessing. It was a deeply prayerful, moving and most of all happy and joyful occasion on a lovely sunny September day in Birmingham.


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Discover the wealth of vestments and plate not normally on show. Look at the secrets in the carvings and windows and have them explained by an expert. Listen to our fabulous organ and have its technicalities explained to you by our Director of Music.

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Anne Symonds – 0121 249 1487

Discussion Paper for Parishes – St. Chad’s Cathedral, Parish Meeting 24th June 2012

Archdiocese of Birmingham

Discussion Paper for Parishes Following the Lent

2012 Pastoral Letter on Future planning

It makes me happy to suffer for you, as I am suffering now, and in my own body to do what I can to make up for all that has still to be undergone by Christ for the sake of his body, the Church. I became the servant of the Church when God made me responsible for delivering God’s message to you, the message which was a mystery hidden for generations and centuries and has now been revealed to his saints. It was God’s purpose to reveal it to them and to show all the rich glory of this mystery to the pagans. The mystery is Christ among you, your hope of glory: this is the Christ we proclaim, this is the wisdom in which we thoroughly train everyone and instruct everyone, to make them all perfect in Christ. It is for this I struggle wearily on, helped only by his power driving me irresistibly.

Colossians 1:24-29

God gathered together as one all those who in faith look upon Jesus as the author of salvation and the source of unity and peace, and established them as the Church that for each and all it may be the visible sacrament of this saving unity. While it transcends all limits of time and confines of race, the Church is destined to extend to all regions of the earth and so enters into the history of mankind. Moving forward through trial and tribulation, the Church is strengthened by the power of God’s grace, which was promised to her by the Lord, so that in the weakness of the flesh she may not waiver from perfect fidelitiy, but remain a bride worthy of her Lord, and moved by the Holy Spirit may never cease to renew herself, until through the Cross she arrives at the light which knows no setting.

Lumen Gentium 9, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Second Vatican Council.

We want this Year to arouse in every believer the aspiration to profess the faith in fullness and with renewed conviction, with confidence and hope. It will also be a good opportunity to intensify the celebration of the faith in the liturgy, especially in the Eucharist, which is “the summit towards which the activity of the Church is directed; … and also the source from which all its power flows.” At the same time, we make it our prayer that believers’ witness of life may grow in credibility. To rediscover the content of the faith that is professed, celebrated, lived and prayed, and to reflect on the act of faith, is a task that every believer must make his own, especially in the course of this Year.

Porta Fidei, 9, Benedict XVI, October 2011

(The document Porta Fidei introduces the Year of Faith, which will run from October 2012, the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, to the Solemnity of Christ the King, November 2013.)

Background information and Context

The Mission of the Church in the Archdiocese of Birmingham.

The Archdiocese of Birmingham covers the counties of Staffordshire, the West Midlands, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Oxfordshire.

The programme in which we look to the future must be set in this broad context. In each parish the concern may be, primarily, for itself, yet there is a bigger picture which only those working for the needs of the whole diocese may be able to see.

It is important to say that, although the Catholic population has changed in this large area, it is not simply a picture of falling Mass attendance. As well as the arrival in our diocese of many Catholics from abroad, who bring with them a firm faith, there is also the case of a shifting population. Whilst the numbers of Catholics may be declining, at the moment, in places where numbers were once much larger, there are some parts of the diocese where major new housing developments are taking place, and which may require a concentration of efforts to respond to a new need.

The Bigger picture – Chaplaincy Provision

For most Catholics who attend Mass, the parish is the focus of their life of faith. Traditionally, when we speak of the parish, we think in most places of the church and the primary school. Secondary schools serve local areas, and chaplains are provided for them.

There are, however, many other pastoral needs outside the immediate parish structure, which are also served by the Diocese, for example:

Oscott College

The Maryvale Institute

Hospital chaplaincy

Prison chaplaincy

University chaplaincy

Foreign Language & Ethnic Chaplaincies

Armed Forces Chaplaincy

Diocesan Departments, including Education, the Marriage Tribunal, etc. The Diocese also has priests who serve the Church at national and international levels.

The Deanery as the starting point

Whilst it is useful to recognise the diocesan perspective and its needs, it is at the more local, deanery level that you are being asked to consider the need to plan for the future.

Deanery groupings are a helpful way of looking at local needs. In our diocese, the different needs, from one deanery to another, make the work of each deanery distinctive and significant.

At this point, no parish can, any longer, think of itself as being independent of others. Some parishes will need those around them, for the resources and the expertise that they might find there. Large parishes, which might not appear to require the help of others, may be in a position to ask what they have that can be shared with neighbouring parishes in need.

The Parish Community & the Church Building

In any given parish, there will be those who have only belonged to this one parish, as well as those who have, for various reasons, experienced the life of different parishes.

When one looks back a generation, and compares Mass attendance then and now, it is easy for those who are part of a parish today to think of people who still live in the area but who may have moved parishes, or who, for any reason, do not attend Mass anymore.

Everyone tends to associate themselves with the ‘place’ where they experience and participate in the celebration of Mass most regularly. A greater mobility enables people to travel more and reach a greater number of churches than previously. At times, Mass in a nearby church will be at a more convenient time for you on a given day.

It is still important, however, to have a sense of ‘your parish’; the place to which you belong; the place from which you might reasonably expect a priest or deacon to come and visit you in a time of need; or the parish to which you would turn at such a time.

One of the most important truths that we have to accept, moving forward, and it is not easy so to do, is that our current provision and projections for the future show that it will not be possible, in the next generation, to sustain the number of church buildings we have, and for each to have its own resident priest.

In terms of the ratio of priests to people, we do not have a shortage of priests compared to many parts of the world, but the number of church buildings we have is more than we need. Our focus, therefore, cannot be only the place where we worship God, but the worship itself, which, at one level, is the same wherever it takes place.

In some cases, churches were built to serve a particular need at a specific time. Then larger churches were built, which made the previous churches less necessary. People become, however, very attached to the building of faith that may have gained important associations during their life. No one likes to see a church close, but where the need is no longer as it once was, and where there are not sufficient priests to provide sacramental ministry in every church, then a community may come to see that a particular building has served the purpose for which it was built, and that the future lies within neighbouring churches.

It may be true that no priest or deacon would wish his church to close, or even for his parish to be affected by the coming changes. Naturally, most people would feel the same about their place of worship and the life of their parish. That is why, whilst listening to the views of clergy and parishioners, some difficult and unpopular decisions will still have to be made by Archbishop Bernard and those who work closely with him. Please pray that he be guided in these decisions, which are not made through choice, but by circumstances and as a result of the current situation.

The Mass as the centre of our life of Faith

There is a very important distinction to be made between the celebration of Mass and a Celebration of Word and Holy Communion, whether led by a deacon or a lay person. Whilst it is important for the Christian community to gather for prayer, with or without a priest present, there should never be any doubt about the essential link between the Priestly ministry and the celebration of the Eucharist.

Although it might be tempting to think that a Celebration of Word and Holy Communion comes as a close second to Mass, in fact, there is little comparison.

It is not envisaged that there is, as yet, a need to substitute for Sunday Mass a Celebration of Word and Holy Communion, except in an unforeseen emergency. Where there is a need to reduce the number of Masses in a parish, in order to serve the needs of a Deanery, the participation in the celebration of Mass remains the norm for Catholics. 

The role of Priests, Deacons, Religious men and women, and the Lay Faithful in the Church’s Mission

In the Church’s mission, it is clear that the life of Catholic communities is centred on the celebration of Mass. From this flows the prayer life of the parish and that of its individual parishioners, the care of the sick and housebound, the Church’s activities for people of all ages and its outreach. This outreach takes various forms: to those who see themselves as Catholics but who do not come to church regularly, to the wider community in which the Church relates to fellow Christians and other religions as well as to neighbours around the parish and the important work of parishes in Justice and Peace, local, national and international charitable work.

One of the most urgent needs in our parishes is that of ensuring that we are able to focus on the Mass and the celebration of the other Sacraments and their place in our lives. It is possible that some of the changes in our current thinking will awaken in some parishioners a greater sense of belonging or a wish to come to church more regularly; you sometimes see value in important things when their meaning changes or their availability is challenged.

Then there is a need for all the baptised to look in a new way at their belonging to the life of the Church. Traditionally, people have looked to the priest to visit sick parishioners. In recent years, deacons have assisted in a special way in the pastoral care of sick and housebound parishioners, and now we are seeing greater lay involvement in which everyone can seek to play a part.

Preparation for the Sacrament of Infant Baptism and, for the Sacrament of Matrimony take place in the parish. The RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) is also parish-based. Now is the time to look at these programmes and consider the varied involvement of parishioners, in a way that supports the Parish Priest in his work. We can look again at how neighbouring parishes can co-operate more in the delivery of these programmes.

Our primary schools are the place where much of the preparation for the Sacraments of Reconciliation, the Eucharist and Confirmation takes place. Perhaps one of the biggest gaps in our approach to catechesis at parish level, however, is the follow up to the Sacraments: visiting families in their homes after their child has received one of these Sacraments; showing how the Church still wishes to encourage families to take a full, conscious and active part in the life of the parish. It takes a lot of courage to be such a parishioner, who can go, on behalf of the parish and with the blessing of the Parish Priest, to visit people in their homes, or invite them to sessions after the Sacramental celebrations, but this is a part of the Church’s mission that, left to the priest alone, will simply not happen. 

Our parishes, first of all, need to be places that believe the Church can and will grow, through the grace of God, and with your enthusiasm for speaking to others of the joy and consolation of your faith.

From the earliest days of the Walk With Me programme, the simplest task was asked of each person: to take one booklet for yourself and pray each day, then to take a second booklet and to give it to somebody who might need or appreciate it, or who might benefit from encouragement in their faith. Eleven years since that initiative began in our diocese, are you someone who has a story to tell about the difference that giving the booklet to somebody made? Are you someone who returned to Church as a result of being given a booklet by a friend or parishioner? Are you someone who never had the courage to give a booklet to anybody, in case you might cause offence?

The Church’s mission, given by Christ, to go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News, is as pressing today as it ever was. The need for vocations to the Priesthood, to the Diaconate and to Religious Life, both in its traditional and more contemporary forms, depends so much on the fostering and encouragement of vocations from among our own parishioners, in our families and in our schools. It might be a long time since your parish has given a vocation to the Church in ordained or consecrated ministry. Please make that prayer ever more urgent and fervent.

Ongoing evangelisation – a cause for hope

Blessed John Henry Newman spoke of a Second Spring in the Church. For all of us, there is a need for renewal in our faith, for embracing joyfully the message of the Gospel with a new spirit.

There are many ways of bringing new life to our faith: returning to the Gospels, praying the Prayer of the Church, praying the rosary, spiritual reading, reading more about our faith and its history, its traditions, the schools of thought behind what we believe, meeting for prayer in homes, pilgrimages, prayer in church outside of Mass & before the Blessed Sacrament, experiencing the Sacrament of Reconciliation after many years and so on. These are not new ways, but they can renew the faith that is within us, which, at times, may have a place in our lives that is not necessarily central.

In times of change in our diocese, we will be much more open to this change, far less threatened by it, if our faith is alive, if we are confident in what we believe, if we are able to move beyond what is the norm for many Catholics: ‘I know what I believe, but I don’t want to talk about it, and if pushed, I’m not sure I’d be confident about what I believe’.

Are there areas of the life of the Church that you wish to know more about? Perhaps, as part of a renewal in your life of faith, you might wish to speak to other parishioners and friends about aspects of the Church’s life, in order to deepen your knowledge and understanding. Perhaps your parish priest, or deacon, or a parishioner might be able to give a talk for the parish; they might wish to invite somebody to your parish who has a particular area of knowledge.

How will the way ahead affect parishes?

The scene has been set; there is a need for change. Parish structures and the provision of priests cannot remain the same. It is important, however, to know that, working within deanery groupings, it will not simply be individual parishes that are affected. Each deanery within the diocese is being asked to look at its life, its partnerships between neighbouring parishes and the delivery of its catechetical programmes.

Where it is necessary to reduce the number of priests in a deanery, parishes will be asked to work together to ensure that the life of the Church remains strong. The priority remains the celebration of the Sacraments, the education of our young people in the faith, the teaching of our faith to adults and the care of sick and dying parishioners.

During the programme of parish visitations, some parish communities reflected on the fact that they have known there would come a day when they would not have a resident priest. In the past, we have been blessed in our diocese by the great number of priests from Ireland, and then by a number of former Anglican priests who have become part of the life of our diocese in the past 20 years.

We have welcomed priests from abroad, both diocesan priests and those from religious orders, but we must recognise the need to staff our parishes with our own homegrown clergy, and that is difficult.

We shall continue to look for suitable opportunities to welcome priests from abroad, but we cannot imagine that this will or, indeed, should be the solution to our problems as we go forward.

What can you do to prepare for change, and to shape the future?

As we continue to prepare and to plan for the changes that will come about, we must pray for the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who never fails to guide and give life to the Church, that the future plans we make will be always placed at the service of Christ and the good of the communities we serve.

The first stage is to be strong in our Catholic identity, strong in our sense of where we have come from in our life of faith, and confident in where we are going, trusting in the goodness of God, but making our own contribution to the life of the Church. Each parish must grow in its awareness of neighbouring parishes and their needs, and in the ways in which they can help you with the needs of your own parish.

This will be a time of change for priests and deacons, and so you are asked to pray for them, that they may be confident and feel supported by you in whatever they are asked to do.

Throughout our lives, the way in which we live our life of faith changes, yet the faith itself does not change. You are asked to be generous in recognising the needs of the Church, which are broader than any individual parish or even any deanery. There is no option for resisting all change, and so we pray that the months and years ahead, though they may be painful as a time of change, will be a time of growth within the Church, of faithfulness to the Lord, and of working through difficult times to see that new ways of expressing and living our faith can be life-giving.

Questions for discussion within Parishes and Deaneries

What is your experience of belonging to your present or a past parish?

How many parishes have you belonged to before your present parish? Some people live their whole life in one parish; others move from one parish to another as a result of changing work, moving house, or for other reasons. This will be a different experience from one person to another. People might be prepared to talk about their experiences of settling into a new parish; the amount of time it takes to belong to a given parish; the importance of communities welcoming visitors and giving them a role in the new parish they have joined, and so on.

What is your knowledge and experience of the parishes of your Deanery?

Someone can read out, from the Archdiocese of Birmingham Directory, the parishes that form the Deanery to which your parish belongs. As you listen to this list, you will recognise some your neighbouring parishes. It is helpful to know the distances between the churches and the distance from your church to each of the others.

Each person or family can ask the questions:

How many of these churches do I know?

How many have I been inside or in how many have I attended Mass?

Which of these churches do I attend regularly as an alternative to my own?

What picture does this paint of parishes already working together, or at least people’s mobility between churches? 

How do we respond to the reality of fewer priests?

As the reality of fewer priests than church buildings in our diocese sinks in, do you think that there are any immediate ways of responding to this situation in a way that speaks of growth in faith, greater involvement by the People of God, and a spirit of mission? The priest has a sacramental and pastoral role in the life of the parish. Are there ways of working with your priest in these roles, and especially with the administration of the parish, that you might not have considered to be your role in the past?

How does our attendance at Sunday Mass fit into our weekend?

In the near future, as the age profile of priests becomes more top-heavy, our focus will need to be on the worthy celebration of each Sunday Mass rather than on keeping the number of Masses we have become used to.

Everyone would probably wish to keep their Mass time and place unchanged. This is the time for thinking about how the shape and priorities of our weekend might change. Increasingly, people find attendance at Mass difficult to fit in amongst the many other activities of a weekend. How do we ensure that attendance at Sunday Mass remains a priority? This may involve a greater awareness of those who do not have transport to get to Mass.

When our faith presents challenges, it is easy to see how Mass can be the first thing to go. But what if it were the first priority? Remember the time when the shops didn’t open, and when Sunday was a day of rest, a day for families? There is no reason why Christians cannot return to these principles, which are no longer part of the world around us, but which might give us a chance to witness to family values and to the place of faith in our life.

Another important matter to discuss with your parish priest is his availability to assist other neighbouring priests as a matter of course, and not simply in an emergency. This is an essential part of deanery and parish co-operation. It is not just a question of how many Masses our church would wish to have.

What priorities should the Diocese take into account when considering Sunday Mass provision?

The Diocese needs to consider how best to provide Sunday Mass and many other forms of chaplaincy and ministry in the future. The Church does not automatically seek to withdraw from those places that are smallest in number, nor, of course, should the Church neglect those in most need. Where there are larger parishes that can cope without a resident priest, there might be good reason for a more self-sufficient parish to be generous, but there is no easy solution for this situation. 

It is not satisfactory to wait, each time, until an emergency occurs. If, therefore, there are ways in which parishes can co-operate better, and share resources more effectively than in the past, preparing the way for further change will be made easier.

To what degree does the life of our parish today reflect the mission of our parish?

The mission of every parish is to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ to the community in which it is placed. This mission was established before any school or church was built. The parish must always address the needs of the present day. If the process of change is seen alongside our mission, then each parish community can ask itself, for example, what are the signs of mission and growth in our Parish today? How many adults have been baptised or received into the Church in our parish in the past 5 years? Are we a parish that invests in its future, in, for example, the visible opportunities for young people; in a clear sense of welcome to newcomers and visitors; in outreach to invite back those who no longer come to church?

What happens next…?

The points raised in this discussion paper, and the questions or areas for discussion, may well not lead to simple or quick answers. For parish communities to come together, however, whether in small groups or in an open parish meeting is, in itself, a good idea, which will foster a greater sense of parish identity. The greater the variety of people at the meeting, however that can be achieved, and the personal invitation to people who might not even think of coming to such a meeting, will make it a more fruitful exercise.

Each parish or chaplaincy is asked to make a written response to this discussion document. It should be sent to the Local Dean.

Although feedback from individuals has its value, the engagement in discussion with others, speaking and listening, is central to what is being asked following the Pastoral Letter, and reflecting on our life in communities of faith.

Thank you for taking part in this process.


By Peter Jennings.

History was made in the Catholic Church during a special Mass and Investiture at Metropolitan Cathedral and Basilica of St Chad, Birmingham, of Bhai Sahib Bhai Dr Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia and Mr William Ozanne, as Knights of the Pontifical Order of Pope St Gregory the Great, on Sunday 22 April 2012.

The Most Reverend Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham, invested the internationally known and respected Spiritual Leader and Chairman of Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, based in the Handsworth area of Birmingham, with one of the highest Papal Awards.

The Order of St Gregory is normally bestowed on Catholics but in rare cases it is also conferred on non-Catholics in recognition of meritorious service to the Catholic Church and the exceptional example they have set in their communities and country.

More than 120 Sikhs, from Birmingham, London, Leeds, and some who had flown from Kenya and India were present in St Chad’s Cathedral for this unique and ground-breaking event in inter-faith relations involving the Catholic Church and the Sikh faith.

Mr Bill Ozanne, who has worked in the area of inter-religious dialogue locally, nationally and internationally for many years as a member of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales Committee for Other Faiths, has recently been appointed by Archbishop Longley as Chairman of the Archdiocese of Birmingham Commission for Interreligious Dialogue.
During the Rite of Investiture, which took place immediately after the homily, Bhai Sahib Bhai, was escorted by Sewa Singh Mandla, and Mr Bill Ozanne by his two sponsors, Michael Hodgetts, KSG and Tony Flanagan KSG.

Canon Gerry Breen, Dean of St Chad’s Cathedral, read out the two Papal Briefs of “Benedict XVI Supreme Pontiff”, given at St Peter’s in Rome, signed and sealed by the Cardinal Secretary of State, Cardinal Bertone.

Archbishop Bernard Longley invested each of the knights elect In the name of the Holy Father with the insignia of a Knight of the Pontifical Order of St Gregory the Great, pinning the Cross to the left breast of each and presenting them with their framed Papal Brief. The Archbishop also presented Bhai Sahib-ji with the sword of the Pontifical Order of St Gregory the Great.

In his homily Archbishop Bernard Longley said: “This is a truly joyful day for it witnesses a moment of recognition and gratitude on the part of the Catholic Church for the dedication of two men of faith for whom our city of Birmingham is their home and the base for their work. This is also a unique and historical moment in the life of this Cathedral and in the experience of the Catholic Church in England and Wales and perhaps further afield.

“It is very fitting that Bhai Sahib Bhai Dr Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia and Mr Bill Ozanne are receiving Papal Knighthoods from His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI on the same occasion and in the same ceremony of investiture. Over a friendship of many years they have discovered not only within each other, but also within the faith traditions that they represent, an openness to dialogue and a desire to deepen understanding and co-operation for the common good.

“They have both personally committed considerable time and energy to the goals of interfaith understanding and of common witness to shared values. But they have also encouraged and enabled the Sikh and Christian traditions to make progress along the pathway from mutual respect towards the deeper insights that friendship brings. They have prompted us to work more closely together in service of others.”

The Archbishop continued: “I believe that it is the first time that a Papal Honour has been bestowed in this way on a spiritual leader from within the Sikh community. It represents the Holy Father’s recognition of Bhai Sahib Bhai’s deeply held desire for fruitful and lasting relations between Sikhs and Catholics and opportunities to witness together.

“We recall Bhai Sahib Bhai’s presence in Assisi for the international meetings of faith leaders at the invitation of Blessed Pope John Paul II and of Pope Benedict – and I am sure that he will long remember being present with Mandla-ji in St Peter’s Square at the funeral of Blessed John Paul II during April 2005.”

Archbishop Bernard Longley stressed: “Nothing could have given greater pleasure to Mr Bill Ozanne than to be receiving this Papal Knighthood alongside Bhai Sahib Bhai, for this moment becomes symbolic of Bill’s own vision for interfaith dialogue and witnesses to his long commitment to this important work of the Church.”

He expressed his gratitude to Bill Ozanne for taking the Chair of the Archdiocese of Birmingham Commission for Interreligious Dialogue.

He said: “Bill Ozanne has constantly emphasised the abiding significance of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council in its Declaration Nostra Aetate. The insights of this declaration are as relevant to our situation today as when they were written fifty years ago. It is the foundation for our friendship and collaboration at every level with men and women of faith. We are blessed in this city to have an active and committed Faith Leaders Group and I am grateful that so many of its members are here with us today.”

Archbishop Bernard Longley concluded his homily: “The faith communities in this city are often among the first to recognise emerging social needs within our local communities. We want to develop effective partnerships among ourselves and with other agencies wherever appropriate to help meet these needs. May today’s celebration encourage us to continue along the pathway of this commitment not only for the good of our own faith communities but for the common good.”

At the sign of peace Archbishop Longley warmly greeted the two new Papal Knights and members of the families, his two co-Presidents of the Birmingham Faith Leaders Group, the Right Reverend David Urquhart, Anglican Bishop of Birmingham, and Major Samuel Edgar, Divisional Commander, Salvation Army, West Midlands.

St Chad’s Cathedral looked at its magnificent best and the Cathedral Choir, under its Director of Music, Professor David Saint, added to the splendour of an historic and memorable occasion with a wonderful rendering of the Franz Schubert Mass in G major. The great Pugin masterpiece was filled with echoes of joyful sound.

After the final hymn, “Christ is made the sure foundation”, members of the Sikh community sang a hymn of praise accompanied by two musicians playing traditional musical instruments. It was a deeply moving experience and in complete contrast to the ritual and ceremony of the Mass and Investiture.

Mr Sewa Singh Mandla then spoke on behalf of the Sikh community. At the lectern with the lighted 2012 Pascal Candle burning brightly beside him, he concluded: “Our two faiths respect each other. We pray that the relationship between us will grow and flourish.”

Archbishop Bernard Longley pictured after the Investiture Mass with left to right: Mrs Margaret Ozanne, Mr Sewa Singh Mandla, Bhai Sahib Bhai Dr Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia, Mr Bill Ozanne, Bishop Philip Pargeter, Emeritus Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham and Canon Gerry Breen, Dean of St Chad’s Cathedral.

The Influence of Blessed John Henry Newman is Felt Today says Archbishop Longley during Easter Vigil Homily

By Peter Jennings.

The Most Reverenced Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham, was the Principal Celebrant at the 8pm Easter Vigil where he blessed the new fire and lighted the Easter candle, at the Metropolitan Cathedral and Basilica of St Chad, Birmingham, on Holy Saturday, 7 April 2012.

The Vigil was followed by the procession from the crypt door outside towards the altar. The great Easter “Exultet” was sung in English by Mgr Mark Crisp, Rector of St Mary’s College Oscott. The staff and students from the diocesan seminary were a most welcome addition to the Easter Triduum this year. The Triduum is one service spread over Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Saturday.

After the Liturgy of the Word and the Gloria, Archbishop Bernard Longley solemnly intoned the great Easter Alleluia. His beautiful tenor voice filled the Cathedral with the joyful sound of rejoicing; in contrast to the starkness of the previous six-weeks of Lent.
Students from St Mary’s College, Oscott, the diocesan seminary, pictured during the Easter Vigil.

After the Litany of the Saints had been sung there followed the Celebration of Reception during which the Archbishop received and warmly welcomed three people (Peter Adcock, Angela Ashurst and Gary Turley-Finch) into full communion with the Catholic Church.

Archbishop Longley then processed to the Baptismal Font where he blessed the water and the three candidates for Baptism (Sabrina Drummond, Debbie Kim and Grace Morgan) made their baptismal promises. Their sponsors and members of the congregation joined in with the renewal of their own baptismal promises, a welcome to the new trio and an affirmation of their faith.

The newly baptised and their sponsors pictured at the baptismal font during the East Vigil.

The three candidates made their Profession of Faith and the Archbishop of Birmingham baptised them – pouring a liberal amount of water over the head of each. It was a short, simple but very beautiful ceremony that fully engaged every individual present.

Archbishop Longley then returned to the sanctuary where, standing at the foot of the steps, he administered the Sacrament of Confirmation to the three people he had received, the three he had baptised, and five further catechumens.

During his homily Archbishop Bernard Longley emphasised: “In our present life we have a foretaste of our risen life in Christ and we are called to live it day by day by responding to God’s grace at work within us, through the scriptures, in the sacraments, through the prayers of faith and in our good works.

The Paschal Candle 2012 pictured during the Easter Vigil at St Chad’s Cathedral.

“We experience many passing moments of re-awakening, when glimpses of the goodness and glory of God’s Kingdom break through the ordinary events of each day – when we catch a reflection of God’s Kingdom in the words and gestures of faith-filled people.”

Archbishop Longley continued: “One of those faith-filled people whose influence we continue to feel today is Blessed John Henry Newman. His beautiful poem The Dream of Gerontius depicts the re-awakening of a sinful yet faithful soul at the point of experiencing the risen life of Christ. Gerontius reflects:
I went to sleep; and now I am refreshed,
A strange refreshment: for I feel in me
An inexpressive lightness, and a sense
Of freedom, as if I were at length myself,
And ne’er had been before.

Archbishop Bernard Longley concluded his thoughtful homily: “Cardinal Newman helps us to see that when we rise to new life in Christ, through our baptism into his death and resurrection, we only then begin to find our real identity and our true path ahead.
“Every Easter re-orients our pathway and casts its new light upon our footsteps. Then, re-awakening and adjusting our eyes to the brilliance of his light, we set our sights once again on him, the risen Lord.”

The Archbishop of Birmingham pictured with the concelebrants during the Easter Vigil Mass.

Snow Causes Cancellation of Processions into Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham, for Chrism Mass

By Peter Jennings.

An onslaught of sleet and snow, combined with a bitterly cold wind caused the cancellation of the annual Chrism Mass procession of priests and deacons from parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Birmingham on the Wednesday of Holy Week, 4 April 2012.

In previous years the procession had made its way, delightfully and haphazardly, the short distance from the crypt, outside and along the side and front of the Metropolitan Cathedral of St Chad, Birmingham.

The particularly unseasonal spring weather also caused the cancellation, for the first time in many years, of the procession from Cathedral House by the Metropolitan Chapter, the auxiliary bishops and the Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Reverend Bernard Longley. This procession escorted by the Papal Knights, had been scheduled to go outside and in through the West Door of this magnificent Pugin gem, situated on the edge of the famous Birmingham Jewellery Quarter.

Spy Wednesday, as it was once known, is the one occasion in the year when all the priests from across the 224 parishes and many varied chaplaincies gather together and are the central figures, filling much of the central part of their magnificent cathedral, with the deacons, religious and lay faithful there just in a supporting role.

Archbishop Bernard Longley presided in the warmth and beauty of St Chad’s. He asked the priests if they were ready to renew the vows they made at their ordination. They responded with a great “I am”. The word of each was the resolution of all. It was a poignant and powerful moment. It always is, from year to year.

In the course of the celebration Archbishop Bernard Longley blessed the oil used for catechumens, for the sick and for those being confirmed.

During his homily the Archbishop said: “Of all the wonderful ceremonies of this Holy Week, when we participate in the sacred drama of the Lord’s passion and resurrection, the Chrism Mass deserves to stand out for its unique focus on the Priesthood of Jesus Christ and on the way that he has chosen to make his priesthood available to the people of our own time and place.”

Archbishop Bernard Longley pictured with his priests during his homily at the Chrism Mass.

Archbishop Longley emphasised that priests and deacons, religious and lay-faithful are all united in the priesthood of Christ. He said: “That is why we must work ever more closely together to further the Church’s mission in our diocese and to face the demands of evangelisation as one body, clergy, religious and lay-faithful seeking a common vision for the future shape of that mission.

“Our common sharing in the priesthood of Christ offers a sure foundation for the fresh collaboration for which I have called in the recent Pastoral Letter (read on the Fifth Sunday of Lent 25 March).”

The Archbishop stressed: “At the heart of this fruitful co-operation is our fidelity as priests to our sacramental sharing in the priesthood of Christ. Being together today we renew the promises of our priestly ordination, but we also remember that this is not the only reason or the most important reason for our coming together in this concelebration. Our first purpose is to be at one, bishop and priests drawn together to bless and consecrate the holy oils.

The Oils are carried in procession to be Blessed by the Archbishop of Birmingham.
The Archbishop of Birmingham pictured during the Blessing of the Oils.

Archbishop Bernard Longley concluded: “The Church calls us together on this one day of the year to exercise the priesthood of Christ in a moment of common witness for the good of the whole diocese as well as for the individual communities we serve.”


The innovative Birmingham Faith Map, a unique website, was launched during Interfaith Week, at Birmingham Anglican Cathedral, by Birmingham City Councillor Alan Rudge, Cabinet Member for Equalities and Human Resources.

The launch, hosted by the Dean of Birmingham, the Very Reverend Catherine Ogle, was attended by members of the Birmingham Faith Leaders Group, and the Faith Round Table, on Tuesday morning, 22 November.

Archbishop Bernard Longley had been summoned to Rome for ecumenical meetings but Canon Gerry Breen, Dean of the Metropolitan Cathedral & Basilica of St Chad, was present together with Fr Timothy Menezes, the Vicar General.

The Birmingham Faith Map was developed by Councillor Alan Rudge working in conjunction with members of his Faith Round Table.

Successful consultation took place during 2010 and 2011 across Birmingham’s 10 constituencies. More than 660 places of worship and gathering were contacted and invited to support the Birmingham Faith Map project.

During his address Councillor Rudge explained: “The Faith Round Table is a bridge between Birmingham City Council and the diverse communities it serves, and continues to foster good relationships between different faiths, which are the key to good community cohesion.”

Councillor Rudge emphasised that the Birmingham Faith Map website would: “Build bridges of communication between different faith communities; help people who are new to Birmingham find a local place of worship; open and maintain communication links between Birmingham City Council and places of worship in Birmingham; and support inter-faith activity and initiatives.”

Councillor Rudge said that he valued and recognised the important role that faith communities play within Birmingham: “They are at the heart of the city and help to support the on-going cohesion and integration between communities.”

Councillor Rudge added: “The homepage provides information explaining the purpose of the Faith Map. From this page, users have a wide range of options to access information: search by postcode, by faith, and by constituency/ward. The Birmingham Faith Map uses Google Maps.

“Unlike a static document the Birmingham Faith Map can be updated with the latest information and augmented with films and interactive sites if required. Feedback, questions and suggestions are most welcome”

Councillor Alan Rudge concluded: “The Birmingham Faith Map places Birmingham City Council at the forefront of innovation and creativity to assist effective community engagement and involvement.”
The Right Reverend David Urquhart, the Anglican Bishop of Birmingham gave a short address during which he said: “People of faith make a distinctive contribution to a harmonious society.”

Bishop Urquhart then led a time of prayer, as is usual each day at noon in Birmingham Cathedral.


By Peter Jennings.

“At the very least we must concede that the demonstrations outside St Paul’s Cathedral in London and in the financial centres of North America, highlight the debate that is to be had concerning the power of wealth and the competing claims of the individual’s right to a just and equitable distribution of wealth in the world,” said the Right Reverend David McGough, Auxiliary Bishop of BiBishop David McGough, Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham, pictured during the Civic Mass, at St Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham, on Sunday 20 November 2011.rmingham, on Sunday 20 November 2011.

Bishop David McGough, Provost of the Metropolitan Chapter, was speaking during his sermon at the Annual Civic Mass at the Metropolitan Cathedral & Basilica of St Chad, Birmingham, on the Solemnity of Christ The King.

Bishop McGough emphasised: “To proclaim Christ as King must surely begin a debate about power. All kingdoms, be they ancient or modern are in some ways about power. At the level of civil life the institution of this Feast was intended to lead to a debate about the powers that hold sway in our society.

“Of equal importance, at the level of the individual, are questions about the attitudes and values that have the power to rule our hearts, to rule our consciences.

“While it is easier to ask the question than to provide the answers, those who are entrusted with the governance and justice of our society, can never ignore these qCanon Gerry Breen, Cathedral Dean, pictured during the procession before the Civic Mass, at St Chad’s Cathedral.uestions.

“In terms of today’s Feast Day, Christ the King, we must ask how these competing powers are to be balanced for the benefit of society.”

Bishop McGough stressed: “We are not our own judges. There is a judgment, be it that of the ballot box or history, that we cannot escape. In the vision of the judgement, the Gospel implies a vision for the future.

That vision for the future is encapsulated in the words of judgment reserved for those described as blessed in the Gospel of Matthew for today: ‘Then the King will say to those on his right hand. Come, you whom my Father has blessed. For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you made me welcome, naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me.’

Bishop McGough added: “There can be no doubt that the vision set before us in those words envisages a society which has, as one of its most fundamental values, the care of its most vulnerBishop David McGough, Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham, and Canon Gerry Breen, Cathedral Dean, (right) pictured during the Civic members.”

Bishop David McGough concluded with this challenge: “The judgement of history will always be in favour of those countries who have arranged their affairs in such a way as to care for those who are most vulnerable. It is for us to have a vision for the future, and to determine that future by what we do now, the way in which we provide for the well being of all.”

Earlier in his thought-provoking sermon, Bishop David McGough said: “Today, in the Calendar of the Roman Catholic Church, we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. For a calendar that tends to think in term of centuries and millennia, this particular celebration, the Feast of Christ the King, is a comparative late-comer.

“Its establishment came out of the political and social unrest that was sweeping through Europe in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was making a statement that questioned movements in society which were seen as totalitarian, and, in many ways, a denial of the dignity of the individual that is the basis of our democratic society.”

Bishop Mc Gough, Titular Bishop of Chunavia, celebrated the Civic Mass in place of the Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Reverend Bernard Longley, who had been summoned to Rome to attend meetings about ecumenical matters.

Before Mass, Canon Gerry Breen, the Cathedral Dean, headed the procession into St Chad’s Cathedral during the opening hymn: ‘Crown Him with many crowns, the Lamb upon His throne.’

Distinguished civic visitors included the Deputy Lord Mayor of Birmingham & Lady Mayoress, Councillor Len Gregory and Mrs Jill Gregory; Dr Joe Jordan, Her Majesty’s Deputy Lord Lieutenant, for the County of the West Midlands, and Mrs Val Jordan; Her Majesty’s Judges; Knights of the Holy Sepulchre.

Also among the congregation in the packed Cathedral were local Members of Parliament; local councillors; magistrates; the police; the fire service; members of the Birmingham Faith Leaders Group; the very Reverend Catherine Ogle, Dean of Birmingham Anglican Cathedral; the Principal of Newman University College, Birmingham.

During the Preparation of the Gifts, the beautiful motet ‘Jubilate Deo omnis terra’ (O be joyful in the Lord, all ye lands), words from the Psalms and music by Giovanni Gabrieli (1557-1612), was sung by the St Chad’s Cathedral Singers, conducted by Professor David Saint, Organist and Director of Music. During Communion, the choir sang ‘A Prayer of King Henry VI ‘ in Latin.

After the blessing, the National Anthem was sung and the joyful sound of final hymn, ‘Christ is made the sure foundation,’ reverberated throughout every corner of St Chad’s Cathedral, a Pugin gem set on the edCouncillor Peter Douglas Osborne, Mr Adrian de Redman, and Mrs Stella Jennings, pictured outside St Chad’s Cathedral, after the Civic of Birmingham city centre.


By Peter Jennings.

Archbishop Bernard Longley, President of St Chad’s Cathedral Association, has warmly commended the work of the Association and the valuable contribution it makes to the Metropolitan Cathedral and Basilica of St Chad, Birmingham.

The Archbishop of Birmingham, the principal guest, was speaking during the eighth Annual Dinner of the Association, held in the Canons’ Dining Room, at Cathedral House, on Friday 11 November 2011.

Among more than 40 members and guests present was Mrs Margaret Mayhew from Stratford-upon-Avon, in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, who will celebrate her hundredth birthday during 2012. Mrs Mayhew is a niece of Archbishop Thomas Williams, the third Archbishop of Birmingham, who died on 1 April 1946. She attended his Funeral Mass held in the Crypt of St Chad’s Cathedral.

After an excellent and well-served meal, guest speaker Mrs Patro Mobsby, gave a fascinating talk, illustrated with slides: about her 760km Camino Walk from Roncesvalles in the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostella in Galicia in north-west Spain.

Mrs Mobsby shared some of the thoughts and feelings she had during her pilgrimage to the Cathedral and shrine dedicated to the Apostle St James.

An accomplished musician, Patro Mobsby is organist at St Catherine of Siena, Parish Church, in central Birmingham

It was a most enjoyable and convivial evening.

St Chad’s Cathedral is a hidden gem, designed by the distinguished English Victorian architect and designer Augustus Welby Pugin, 1812-1852.

During 2012 the St Chad’s Cathedral Association will play an important role during the year-long special celebrations to mark the bicentenary of the birth of Pugin on 1 March 1812.

The first events will be held in St Chad’s Cathedral during March 2012 to coincide with the anniversary of Pugin’s birthday, and the Feast of St Chad, Bishop of Lichfield, the following day, 2 March.

*Anyone who is interested in joining the St Chad’s Cathedral Association should contact the Hon Secretary, Mr David Symonds. Email:


Story and pictures by Peter Jennings.

The Anniversary of the four-day State Visit of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to the United Kingdom, Thursday 16 – Sunday 19 September 2010, was marked by a special Mass of Thanksgiving held in Westminster Cathedral, on Sunday afternoon, 18 September 2011.

The Cathedral was not full for the Mass attended by those who made a particular contribution to the organization of the successful Papal Visit. All of the Bishops of England & Wales, along with seminarians, attended as they remembered the historic meeting of the Holy Father with the Bishops and seminarians at St Mary’s College, Oscott, on Sunday 19 September, 2010, following the beatification of Blessed John Henry Newman by Pope Benedict XVI at Cofton Park, Birmingham that morning.

At the start of Mass Archbishop Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster and President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, welcomed everyone and mentioned a number of people by name. These included: Simon Martin, the Director of Protocol and Vice Marshal of the Diplomatic Corps at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office who was officially representing Her Majesty’s Government.

Mr Martin, who exercised overall operational responsibility for the Visit of His Holiness to the United Kingdom, was accompanied by H E Nigel Baker, the new British Ambassador to the Holy See; Dame Helen Ghosh, Susan Scholefield, George Edgar, Alison MacMillan and Tony Humphries.

Councillor Anita Ward, the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, represented Birmingham City Council. Blessed John Henry Newman lived for much of his Catholic life in Birmingham and died in his room at the Oratory House in Edgbaston on 11 August 1890, aged 89.

Archbishop Antonio Mennini, the Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain and Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, pictured before Mass.Father Gregory Winterton, aged 89, Provost of the Birmingham Oratory 1972-1992, who revived the Newman Cause during the mid-1970′s and who helped to create popular devotion to the great English Cardinal in many part of the world, was present on the sanctuary.

Detective Chief Superintendent Philip Jordan, represented the Association of Chief Police Officers Visit Team and Detective Chief Inspector Chris Lundrigan, represented the Metropolitan Police Service Command Team.

Mgr Paul Conroy, Coordinator of the Papal Visit on behalf of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, represented the Bishops of Scotland. Mgr Andrew Summersgill, Coordinator of the Papal Visit on behalf of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales was present.

Also on the sanctuary was Archbishop Elisey of Sourozh from the Russian Orthodox.


At start of Mass of the two-hour Mass a special message from Pope Benedict XVI was read by His Excellency, Archbishop Antonio Mennini, the Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain: “The Holy Father was pleased to learn that on 18 September 2011 a solemn Mass of Thanksgiving will be celebrated in Westminster Cathedral to mark the anniversary of his Apostolic Visit to the United Kingdom. He sends cordial greetings to the bishops, clergy, religious and lay faithful gathered for the occasion, as well as to the distinguished civil authorities present.

“His Holiness recalls with deep gratitude the warmth of the welcome given by Her Majesty The Queen and her Government, and he again expresses his appreciation to all those who contributed to the happy outcome of his Visit. He trusts that this moment of thanksgiving will serve as a renewed summons to take up the challenge which he issued a year ago in this very place: to bear joyful witness to the truth of the Gospel “which liberates our minds and enlightens our efforts to live wisely and well, both as individuals and as members of society”.

“In a special way, he encourages the seminarians to keep their eyes fixed on Jesus Christ, to devote themselves wholeheartedly to their intellectual and spiritual formation, and to be steadfast heralds of the new evangelization. “Commending you to the intercession of the Blessed John Henry Newman, the Holy Father is pleased to impart his Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of grace and peace in Jesus Christ our Lord.” – Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State.


The message from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, was read by the Anglican Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, who represented the Archbishop at the occasion: “Twelve months on, we look back on the visit of Pope Benedict with abiding gratitude. The visit was a great gift for all the Christian communities of the United Kingdom, affirming their role in society and strengthening their resolve to serve the communities of this country. The Pope’s memorable speech in Westminster Hall and many more of his public sermons and addresses brought a remarkable and creative theological mind to bear on the issues of the day, and proved impossible for even the most dedicated secularist to ignore or dismiss.

“But perhaps most importantly of all, those days last September visibly reminded the public at large that Christian discipleship is not the concern of some tiny ageing minority but a reality enthusiastically embraced by millions of all ages and races. Pope Benedict showed us all something of what the particular vocation of the See of Rome means in practice – a witness to the universal scope of the gospel.

“We who belong to other Christian families gladly acknowledge the importance of this witness and join with our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters in thanking God for the inspiration and challenge of Pope Benedict’s visit, in the hope that we can go on working together for the sake of Christ’s good news here in the United Kingdom.” – +Rowan Cantuar


Today we come to thank the Lord for the blessings of the Visit of Pope Benedict to the United Kingdom one year ago and to ask for the Lord’s grace to profit fully from the inspiration of those wonderful days.

Each of us has our special memories from those days. I hope there has been time to reflect on them, study his words and refresh the joy and encouragement we experienced.

For me a particularly evocative moment was the Vigil of Prayer in Hyde Park, well captured in these words of one young person: “The procession of banners revealed the true depth and role of Catholicism in England today. The line was long and diverse – it brought tears to my eyes to see the effort that everyone puts into living out their belief in the sacred value of each human being….

“Pope Benedict spoke to us all of Newman’s witness and living in the light of truth. We all stood listening in a disruption to our daily routine that appeared like a wonderful moral and spiritual boost, sent to prepare us for an inspired return into secular society with our own unique God-given mission.

“At Adoration, the altar was covered in stars like another night sky and the figure of our Supreme Pontiff stood like the most beautiful moonbeam, with the Eucharist held aloft as the greatest treasure.

“As one, we knelt and stood at the instigation of our Holy Father and it felt truly as though we were all one heart, in that field with no roof: one body of worship and a witness to the world around of the great power of love in our faith.” (Rebecca Binney)

Those words, I suggest, sum up the gift and challenge we have received. Yes, we are to be effective witnesses in our society; and we can only be so if we are close to the Lord, strengthened by him in holiness of life.

This inseparable connection between our constant striving for holiness of life and our work in service of others is well expressed in other words of our Holy Father:

“Those who change the world for the better are holy, they transform it permanently, instilling in it the energies that only love, inspired by the Gospel, can elicit. The Saints are humanity’s great benefactors.”

And Pope Benedict, through his words to our young people, called us to be the saints of this age.

For me, three phrases sum up the message of Pope Benedict to us all. It is, of course, a message that reaches beyond the Catholic community and is one which we can pursue with many others, especially our fellow Christians. But it is addressed to us, first of all.

The witness we are to give, he said, is to the beauty of holiness, to the splendour of the truth and to the joy and freedom born of a relationship with Jesus Christ.

How do we grow in the witness to the beauty of holiness that we are to give? Most of all, I believe, through a deepening of our life of prayer. Only prayer roots us in Christ. Only prayer sustains the poise and purpose in life that becomes a witness to the reality of God’s presence.

Only prayer produces the reverence we are to show to all things holy. Only prayer sustains the space and silence our spirits need if we are indeed to be guided and formed by God’s Holy Spirit. As Cardinal Newman said: without prayer we cannot “radiate Christ; we become just another ‘clashing symbol’ in a world filled with growing noise and confusion.”

In the words of Pope Benedict, prayer is simply being in silent inward communion with God at the heart of our thinking, our meditating, and our being. Prayer is letting the Lord have the right of free speech.

This means that every one of us is called to renew in our lives the practice of daily prayer. There is no fixed or set way of prayer that suits everyone. Each of us is to pray as we can, and be faithful to that practice. And coming together in a family for prayer is a great foundation for family life.

This means that we do well to think of our parishes as well as our families, first and foremost, as being schools of prayer, places and communities in which we are encouraged in prayer, tutored in prayer and all contribute to prayer. The rich flowering of so many different ways of prayer and devotion can rightly find their place in our parish life. This much is clear: Pope Benedict is not afraid of diversity in the prayer and liturgical life of the Church. Neither should we be.

Prayer which is truly formed in the faith of the Church, and truly expresses that faith will enrich our shared life. And surely there is to be a special place in our prayer, in every parish, for Eucharistic Adoration. Prayer, then, is the foundation of all. In this way we can become ever more conscious of our dignity as a priestly people, “called to consecrate the world to God through lives of faith and holiness.”

Secondly, Pope Benedict urged us to be witnesses to the splendour or wholeness of the truth. And he gave us an astonishingly clear lesson in how to do so.

Who can forget his address in Westminster Hall? Building on the strengths and achievements of our democracy, he placed the great gift of faith at the service of our world today. He did so with sensitivity and reasoned argument, without hectoring or condemning, inviting rather than demanding, firmly but gently.

Listening to him I was reminded of the lovely words of Cardinal Hume spoken here many years ago. Speaking of St Francis de Sales he said: “He was gentle but firm, a combination which helps us to sustain and guide the faithful. It is never easy to keep these two qualities in harmonious balance. If one is to be favoured at the expense of the other let it be gentleness – a gentleness born of strength. The key to all ministry is to love people as Christ loved them.” (24 January 1992).

Pope Benedict spoke of the need in our society for clearer moral values, needed for a peaceful and harmonious society. Scandals in the world of the media and the violence and looting on the streets of some English cities in mid-August revealed how profoundly true his observations were. He said, “If the moral principles underpinning the democratic process are themselves determined by nothing more solid than social consensus, then the fragility of the process becomes all too evident.”

He reminded us of the crucial question: “Where is the ethical foundation for (political) choices to be found?” and that “Catholic tradition maintains that the objective norms governing right action are accessible to reason, prescinding from the content of revelation.”

How are we to think about meeting this challenge? The prayer of Pope St Gregory the Great comes to our help when he prayed for ‘the grace to see life whole and the power to speak effectively of it’, for love of the Lord.

Our Catholic faith, illuminating reason, gives us that gift. We see life whole when we recognise the true nature of the unborn child. We see life whole when we see in every pupil not only a future contributor to our economic prosperity, not only a future parent and leader, but also a spiritual being whose deepest needs and surest happiness can be answered only in the mystery of God and in a personal relationship with Him.

We see life whole when we recognise the limited value of our personal experience as the criterion of moral truth. We see life whole when we recognise that the well-being of every human person has to be at the centre of our economic life, the ultimate purpose of our striving and the measure by which we are to judge success. We see life whole when, in sickness and terminal illness, we both treasure life as it is and do not fear death when it comes, so that we neither deny the dignity of life at its endings, nor fail to welcome our journey to God when He calls.

In our exploration of life in its fullness we are aided and inspired by our own Blessed John Henry Newman. How much we can rejoice in a new wave of interest and devotion to this great man. We rejoice in his sensitivity to our culture and his insistence on the reasonableness of faith in God in an age of agnosticism and doubt. He will continue to inspire us.

Perhaps today’s Gospel expresses most forcefully the challenge of seeing life whole. We heard, somewhat incredulously, of the owner of the vineyard paying those who came so late to work as much as he paid to those who had laboured all day. The parable focuses on not so much the lot of the workers, but the absolute generosity of God, whose merciful actions go way beyond the requirements of justice.

We are always tempted to reckon life in terms of our achievements and our possessions. But when we see life whole then we know it is all a gift of God. All we have is God’s gift. When this is clear, then we are able to serve generously, to give freely, for what we have is already a gift, and what is freely received can more readily be freely given.

As the Holy Father said in Hyde Park, “Faith is meant to bear fruit in the transformation of our world through the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the lives and activities of believers.” Today we pray that the long line of banners and groups of Catholic action in our society will grow stronger and longer, coordinated centrally for strength and flourishing locally in responsiveness to all the needs and demands of our difficult times.

Finally, Pope Benedict reminded us of a key testimony that we are to give: that of joy and freedom. How many in our society would immediately associate those qualities with the Catholic Church? Yet they are there, to be seen in so many. Approaching two million young people – including some who were not so young at all – gave unmistakable testimony to that joy and freedom born of a relationship with Christ at the recent World Youth Day in Madrid. This was a manifestation of youthful faith and friendship, reaching to every continent.

Maybe its secret was expressed in the words of a young pilgrim from this country: “Catholic is what we are, not something we belong to!” That sense of common, inner identity, as opposed to a sense of membership of an organisation, is something for many of us to rediscover. Being a Catholic is a way of life, not a set of membership duties. Being a Catholic is expressed in everyday actions, the habits of a maturing faith, actions of devotion, kindness and, indeed, self-denial, actions which are willing expressions of our love of the Lord who alone is the source of our joy and freedom.

I hope that this is the spirit in which we will embrace the communal act of Friday abstinence, sharing together in our identification with Jesus in his self-denial for our salvation. Let the joy and freedom born of our loving relationship with him lift the burden of so much anxiety and strife from our hearts so that others may see the hope and consolation we receive from him.

My brothers and sisters, today we do indeed give thanks for the ministry and charism of the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of St Peter. We willingly express again our love and devotion to him, the visible touchstone of our faith and truly our Holy Father in the Church. We promise him the support of our prayers and we commit ourselves to working each day, in our families, our friendships, our schools and our parishes to reap a hundredfold from the seeds he has sown in our hearts.

May this truly be a moment of fresh wind in our sails, a moment of hope and confidence in the gifts that our Catholic faith offers to our world. Amen.

Archbishop Longley Recalls Heroism of English Martyrs during Harvington Pilgrimage Mass

By Peter Jennings.

Archbishop Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham, was the Principal Celebrant and Preacher at Mass during the annual pilgrimage to the Shrine of the English Martyrs at Harvington Hall, Kidderminster, Worcestershire, on Sunday 4 September.

The Elizabethan manor-house was built by Humphrey Pakington (1555-1631) a courtier from the household of the Lord Chancellor Ellesmere, who managed to practice his Catholic faith in secret during a time of great persecution. Harvington Hall has the finest surviving series of priest-holes anywhere in the country and during Elizabethan times offered shelter to many recusant priests.

Several hundred pilgrims and priests from parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Birmingham were present on the lawn on a glorious early September afternoon. The blue sky, warm sunshine, the backcloth of trees and the old manor-house added to the occasion.

Red vestments in honour of the English Martyrs were worn by Archbishop Bernard Longley; Bishop Philip Pargeter, retired Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham; Mgr Canon John Moran, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Birmingham since 1998, and Parish Priest of St Mary’s Harvington since 2008; and Fr Douglas Lamb, Parish Priest of St Ambrose, Kidderminster. More than 15 other priests also concelebrated including Canon Gerry Breen, Dean of the Metropolitan Cathedral and Basilica of St Chad, Birmingham.

The four martyrs especially venerated at Harvington, who worked at various times in the area, are: St John Wall – hung, drawn and quartered at Red Hill, Worcester on 2 August 1679, and canonised in 1970; St Nicholas Owen – died under torture in the Tower on 2 March 1606, and was canonised in 1970; Bl. Edward Oldcorne – executed at Red Hill, Worcester on 7 April 1606 and beatified in 1929; and Bl. Arthur Bell – executed at Tyburn on 11 December 1643 and beatified in 1987.

During his homily Archbishop Bernard Longley said: “I am delighted to join you for the second time on pilgrimage to Harvington to honour the memory and witness of the English Martyrs of our diocese and especially those associated with this beautiful place. When I was last here on pilgrimage we were all making our last-minute preparations for the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United Kingdom and to Birmingham for the Beatification of Blessed John Henry Newman.”

Archbishop Longley stressed: “The witness of the martyrs here at Harvington Hall is an inspiration to all of us. When we reflect on their courage and loving steadfastness in the face of opposition and menace we are moved to make apology to our Lord for the comparative weakness of our own faith. Today’s pilgrimage isn’t only a lovely day-out, but it fires us again with enthusiasm for the mission that Christ has entrusted to us in our own time, just as the Holy Father’s visit and example have given us fresh courage to follow and serve our Lord.”

He said: “The prayers of our pilgrimage at Harvington contributed to the remarkable blessings that have been the lasting legacy of the papal visit. For Catholics our sense of identity and unity were strengthened and we saw the Holy Father’s spiritual leadership widely recognised by people of all faiths and of none. Other Christians and people of faith welcomed the emphasis placed by Pope Benedict on the vital contribution that we can and do make to the common good of all.”

At the conclusion of his homily Archbishop Bernard Longley paid a warm tribute to Mgr John Moran on his last day as Vicar General. The Archbishop said: “I want to thank him again, in the midst of his own parishioners and all of us on pilgrimage for his devoted service to the clergy and people of the Archdiocese as VG over these last thirteen years.

“Mgr John has exercised his demanding ministry as VG with dedication and above all by example. In this way we have witnessed the qualities of his generous character and the many talents that have enabled him to achieve so much for the sake of the Kingdom of God,” he said.

Archbishop Longley added: “I know how much Mgr John has been looking forward to dedicating his time to the parish community here at Harvington and how greatly supported he has felt by the people of this parish.”

The Archbishop of Birmingham announced that he had appointed Fr Timothy Menezes, Parish Priest of St Thomas More Coventry since 2004, as his new Vicar General, as from Monday 5 September 2011.


The Visit of Pope Benedict XVI evoked for many people the spiritual reality of life and rekindled hope and faith: hope in the goodness that is within people and in our society, and faith in God. Even if it is not easily articulated, a spiritual yearning is to be found within most people. This yearning is found also among Catholics who have lost touch with their faith or whose faith was never deeply rooted in a personal relationship with Christ. Wishing to respond to this yearning but perhaps lacking in confidence in talking about their own spiritual life, many Catholics are asking how they can witness to their faith; what can they do to help introduce their faith in Christ to others in simple and straightforward ways?

The Bishops of England and Wales recognise that simple acts of witness, accompanied by sincere prayer, can be a powerful call to faith. Traditional Catholic devotions such as making the sign of the cross with care and reverence, praying the Angelus, saying a prayer before and after our meals, to name only a few, are straightforward actions which both dedicate certain moments in our daily lives to Almighty God and demonstrate our love and trust in His goodness and providence. If these devotions have been lost or even forgotten, particularly in our homes and schools, we have much to gain from learning and living them again.

The Bishops have looked again at the role of devotions and the practice of penance, both of which can help to weave the Catholic faith into the fabric of everyday life. Our regular worship at Holy Mass on Sunday, the day of the Lord’s resurrection, is the most powerful outward sign and witness of our faith in Jesus Christ to our family, friends and neighbours. Sunday must always remain at the heart of our lives as Catholics.

The Bishops also wish to remind us that every Friday is set aside as a special day of penitence, as it is the day of the suffering and death of the Lord. They believe it is important that all the faithful again be united in a common, identifiable act of Friday penance because they recognise that the virtue of penitence is best acquired as part of a common resolve and common witness.

The law of the Church requires Catholics on Fridays to abstain from meat, or some other form of food, or to observe some other form of penance laid down by the Bishops’ Conference. The Bishops have decided to re‐establish the practice that this penance should be fulfilled simply by abstaining from meat and by uniting this to prayer. Those who cannot or choose not to eat meat as part of their normal diet should abstain from some other food of which they regularly partake. This decision will come into effect from Friday 16 September 2011.

Since the Bishops of England and Wales announced this decision in May 2011, a number of questions have been asked. Among these are the following:

Q1. With all that is happening in our society and our world, are there not more important things to be concentrating on? Why have the Bishops of England and Wales reintroduced this common act of penance now?

The Bishops are of course very much aware of the great issues and challenges that we face at home and abroad. As shepherds of the Church and successors of the Apostles, in communion with the successor of Peter, they are charged by Christ to read the ‘signs of the times’ and re‐examine in each new age how the Church needs to respond to these issues and challenges. Re‐emphasising the importance of penitence is but one of the responses the Bishops wish to make to the growing desire of people to deepen and give identity to the spiritual aspects of their lives.

Indeed, even though since 1985 it has been possible in England and Wales for the faithful to substitute another act of penance in place of abstinence from meat, many Catholics have continued to practice this ancient form of penitence. Moreover, there are signs that in recent years, the practice of voluntary Friday abstinence has become more prevalent, especially among young Catholics who are seeking a greater sense of their Catholic identity and are looking for ways of bringing their faith into their daily lives. It is also clear that many of us forget our obligation to do penance on a Friday.

Abstaining from meat is easy to remember, a simple way to give witness at work, at school and even in the family and, although it is still an act of penitence, cannot be considered to put any real or substantial additional burden on the lives of the faithful.

Q2. What is penitence?

Penitence is the sorrow we feel, and know in justice is due, for wrongs that have been done. Penance is the expression of penitence as an act, or acts, of repentance and is part of a healing process which brings reconciliation and peace. Penance may be done for wrongs committed personally or for wrongs done by another.

Without ‘penitence’, acts of penance could become merely mechanical and of no spiritual benefit. The precept of penitenceiii reminds us therefore that we are in need of continuous “…conversion and renewal, a renewal which must be implemented not only interiorly and individually but also externally and socially”iv. For Catholics, the practice of penance constitutes a necessary component of Christian life.v The Sacred Scriptures and the early Church Fathers insist above all on three forms of penance, prayer, fasting and almsgiving (or works of charity). These express respectively, conversion in relation to God, to oneself and to Expressed by acts of penance, penitence is the spiritual disposition by which every Catholic identifies with Christ in his death on the cross. In prayer, we unite the sufferings and sacrifices in our lives with those of Christ’s passion.vii In fasting or abstaining from some food, we die a little to self in order to be close to Christ. In almsgiving, we demonstrate our solidarity with the sufferings of Christ in those in need.viii All three forms of penitence constitute a vital part of Christian living. When this is visible ‘externally and socially’, then it is also an important act of witness.

Q3. Why are we obliged to practice penitence on Fridays?

From the earliest centuries of the Church’s history, Friday was dedicated to the memory of the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus Christ, as a day on which we should make a special effort to practice penitence. The seasons and days of penitence in the course of the Liturgical year (Lent, and each Friday) are therefore intense moments of the Church’s penitential practice.ix For this reason, the Code of Canon Law of the Catholic Church specifies the obligations of Latin Ritex Catholics: “All Fridays through the year and the time of Lent are penitential days and times throughout the entire Church.” (Canon 1250)

Q4. Why is abstinence from meat or any particular food a part of penitence?

Abstinence is a form of fasting. It is a way of disciplining or training the body. Few question the need to watch our intake of food when we are training to take part in a sport. Abstinence is part of our spiritual training. It reminds us that our bodies and our lives are gifts of God. Abstinence can also remind us (and each other) of the sacredness of the lives of others who lack the food we enjoy. As a public witness then, it can be a service to those whose life and human dignity are in danger from poverty, hunger and all forms of violence.

The precise reason for the traditional practice of abstaining specifically from meatxi on Fridays and other penitential days is not known. What is without doubt is that it is a very ancient traditionxii, common to both the Latin Rite Church and the Eastern Rite Churches.

Q5. Eating meat is not that important to me and therefore not much of a penance or sacrifice on my part. What then is the value of my abstaining from meat on a Friday?

For some people abstinence from meat will not necessarily be much of a ‘personal’ penance or sacrifice. Indeed, many people do not eat meat. Giving up going out with friends on a Friday night, for example, would be for some much more of a penance or personal sacrifice. However, to say that we do not eat meat or we dislike meat, or that we ‘prefer fish’, is to miss the point! What the Bishops are asking us to do, first and foremost, is to make abstaining from meat a common act of penitence; a common witness and sacrifice. This act unites us and reminds us of our personal duty, each Friday, to sacrifice something which is precious to us out of love for Almighty God and out of love for others. Moreover, it is not just as an individual act of witness that we are asked to undertake Friday penance but as a weekly prophetic witness of the whole Catholic community. It witnesses that being a Catholic requires us, as a community, through our prayer, abstaining and almsgiving/works of charity, to stand alongside those who are in need.

If abstaining from meat is not really a sacrifice for us then we should consider doing something in addition to abstaining from meat. This will keep us united in this common sign of witness and enable us to make our act of penitence a real personal sacrifice and help us to stand in solidarity with those in real need.

Q6. Does this mean that we should eat fish on Fridays?

There is no requirement for us to eat fish instead of meat on a Friday. Our act of abstinence does not mean that we have to eat another particular type of food as the regular substitute for meat on a Friday. The precise goal of penitence is not simply the avoidance of meat or its substitution with another food but relating the external and common act of penance we do to inner conversion, prayer and works of charityxiii.

Q7. What should I do if I am invited out for a meal on a Friday?

If our friends and colleagues value us they will not be offended or upset if we tell them, ahead of time, that we do not eat meat on Fridays. Our choice to observe abstaining from meat in this social setting does permit us though to witness ‐ in an indirect way ‐ that our Catholic faith is important, that we are not ashamed of it. It may also provide us with an opportunity, particularly if we are asked, to explain to our friends and colleagues what the significance of our faith is for us and our lives.

Q8. Why is prayer important to our Friday penance?

Next to Sunday, the Lord’s Day, Friday has always been a special day in the Catholic Church for prayer. On a Sunday our prayer is in thanksgiving to God for the new and eternal life brought to us by Christ’s resurrection from the dead. On a Friday our prayer is in thanksgiving for the gift of the mortal life that we have been given; a life which Christ willingly sacrificed on the cross for our sake. A fitting prayer then, as part of our Friday penance, would be to ask Almighty God to turn away all threats to mortal life. The act of abstinence itself can be offered consciously as a prayer for life and in reparation for sins against life.

Q9. What has almsgiving or works of charity to do with abstaining from meat on a Friday?

Abstaining from meat on a Friday is not meant to be an end in itself. We engage in this common act of penitence to encourage each other and to unite all our personal sacrifices, whatever they may be for us as individuals, with the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross for the good of all. Abstinence from meat (or some other food if meat is not part of our regular diet) can also be put at the service of others if we make a sacrifice and give the financial savings made from our abstention (or fasting) to charities which assist those who are poor or suffering. If we are unable to make that financial sacrifice, we can still perform a ‘work of charity’, an act of kindness and love to another person who is in need or suffering in some way.

Q10. Are all Catholics obliged to do penance by abstaining from meat on Fridays?

Canon 1251 of the Code of Canon Law states: “Abstinence from eating meat or another food according to the prescriptions of the Conference of Bishops is to be observed on Fridays throughout the year unless they are solemnities; abstinence and fast are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on the Friday of the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Canon 1252 states that: “The law of abstinence binds those who have completed their fourteenth year. The law of fasting binds those who have attained their majority, until the beginning of their sixtieth year. Pastors of souls and parents are to ensure that even those who by reason of their age are not bound by the law of fasting and abstinence, are taught the true meaning of penance.”

Those under fourteen years of age, the sick, the elderly and frail, pregnant women, seafarers, manual workers according to need, guests at a meal who cannot excuse themselves without giving great offense to their hosts or causing friction, and those in other situations of moral or physical impossibility are not required to observe abstention from meat; in other words, we should act prudently.

Q11. Are the Bishops placing a greater obligation on Catholics in England and Wales? Apart from the exceptions above, will it be a ‘sin’ to eat meat on a Friday after the Bishops’ decision takes effect in September?

The obligation on Catholics in England and Wales to do penance on a Friday will be the same after Friday 16 September 2011 as it was before that date. The only change is that the Bishops have determined that the requirement by all the faithful to do penance on a Friday will be fulfilled by abstaining from meat. When asked a similar question to this, the Holy See replied that the ‘gravity’ of the obligation applies to our intention to observe penance as a regular and necessary part of our spiritual lives as a wholexiv. Therefore, the ‘gravity’ of the obligation does not relate to observing the specific act of penance (abstaining from meat) prescribed by the Conference of Bishops. The ‘gravity’ of the obligation applies to the intention to do penance during the prescribed penitential days and seasons of the Church’s yearxv. Failure to abstain from meat on a particular Friday then would not constitute a sin.

Fr Marcus Stock
General Secretary
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales

i Code of Canon Law, Canon 1251
ii The Bishops have also stated that those who cannot or choose not to eat meat as part of their normal diet should abstain from some other food of which they regularly partake.
iii Apostolic Constitution, Paenitemini, Pope Paul VI, 1966
iv Ibid.
v Code of Canon Law, Canon 1249
vi Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1434
vii Galatians 2:20
viii Matthew 25:40
ix Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1438
x Eastern Rite Catholics have their own penitential practices as specified by the Code of Canons for the Eastern Churches
xi The practice of abstaining from what belongs to meat (Latin: ‘carnis’) in the Latin Rite Church used to include not only the flesh, offal and blood of warm‐blooded animals (this is generally what ‘carnis’ refers to), but also things that ‘came from flesh’. This included eggs, milk and any other dairy products. Most of the Eastern Rite Churches still preserve abstinence from other foods, including oil and wine, in addition to the meat of animals. However, the Apostolic Constitution Paenitemini of Pope Paul VI states that the “the law of abstinence forbids the use of meat, but not of eggs, the products of milk or condiments made of animal fat” and Canon 1251 of the Code of Canon Law requires only abstinence from meat.
xii Explicit mention is made of the practice of abstinence on Fridays from the end of the first century A.D., the Didache or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, as well as by St Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian in the third century. St Gregory the Great, writing to St Augustine of Canterbury, spoke of the practice regarding abstinence “We abstain from flesh meat, and from all things that come from flesh, as milk, cheese, and eggs.”
xiii Apostolic Constitution, Paenitemini, Pope Paul VI, 1966
xiv The “substantial observance” of the penitential discipline of Fridays and Ash Wednesday, Pope Paul VI wrote, “binds gravely.” Interpreting this statement authoritatively, the Sacred Congregation of the Council (now the Congregation for the Clergy) decreed that this grave obligation does not refer to the individual days of penance, but to “the whole complexus of penitential days to be observed . . . that is, one sins gravely against the law, who, without an excusable cause, omits a notable part, quantitative or qualitative, of the penitential observance which is prescribed as a whole (February 24, 1967; reprinted in Canon Law Digest, vol. 6, pp. 684‐85).
xv Apostolic Constitution, Paenitemini, Pope Paul VI, 1966

Statement following the Peace Rally

‘United Birmingham – One City – One Voice for Peace’

Under the banner ‘United Birmingham – One City – One Voice for Peace’ the Peace Rally brought together people from every faith along with civic and political leaders supported by the Emergency Services whose members come from the families of our multi-cultural communities – all citizens of our great City of Birmingham.

The Rally was a firm united public response to the recent civil unrest on our streets which had such tragic consequences. The minority of young people who were caught up in the rioting and looting were a stark contrast to the young people who came to the Rally to condemn the action of some of their peers and to affirm pride in our City and hope for all our futures.

As we gathered in Birmingham, Archbishop Bernard Longley, leading a pilgrimage of 300 young people from our diocese to World Youth Day in Madrid, offered Mass and prayers to coincide with the Rally. Some 4,000 youngsters from the U.K. have made the same journey in faith. A more accurate image of the majority of our young people!

Having listened to the various addresses made by the speakers, there were recurring and common themes: respect for life and the dignity of everyone created by God; love and care of neighbour; forgiveness and compassion; tolerance and humility; justice and peace. A Creed for us all!

Welcomed with due respect was Tariq Jahan whose son Haroon was killed during the rioting. Mr Jahan has been rightly credited as being the voice of calm and reason in the midst of the troubles. He implored the community, both innocent and guilty, to end violence and not seek senseless recrimination. Most profoundly, in one of his many videoed interviews calling for peace, he concluded by saying of his son: “May Allah forgive him and bless him!” This is a prayer familiar to many which is found at the heart of our Catholic Liturgy for the faithful departed. If only all people could acknowledge their need for God and his forgiveness!

As we leave behind a dark week in our City’s history we look forward to the future with renewed hope. I invite all people of faith to pray following Inter-Faith Prayer for our City and all its citizens:

O God, you are the source of life and peace.
Praised be your name forever.
We know it is you who turns our minds to thoughts of peace.
Hear our prayer in this time of crisis.
Your power changes hearts.

Muslims, Christians and Jews remember, and profoundly affirm,
that they are followers of the one God,
Children of Abraham and brothers and sisters.
Enemies begin to speak to one another;
those who were estranged join hands in friendship;
communities seek the way of peace together.

Strengthen our resolve to give witness to these truths
by the way we live.
Give to us:
understanding that puts an end to strife;
mercy that quenches hatred;
and forgiveness that overcomes vengeance.
Empower all people to live in your law of love.

Statement by Councillor Alan Rudge, Chairman of, and on behalf of Birmingham Community Networks and the Faith Round Table

Following the recent disturbances and disorder which have hit our streets over the past few days, we, the members of Birmingham Community Networks and Faith Round Table, urge all of our communities to join together to bring harmony and peace back to our city.

We encourage everyone to recognise their responsibility in helping to ensure that our city is a place where people want to live, work and take their leisure, not only for today but also for our future generations – we want Birmingham to continue to be a place where people want to build their lives

Within and across our communities we will continue to work together to build upon our relationships and partnerships which are built upon trust, mutual respect, recognition and embracing of all our communities in Birmingham .

We will continue to work hard with all communities to help maintain and develop cohesion and integration. We encourage those who have direct responsibility for young people in insisting that all those who are growing up in our city have a framework of values and disciplines with which to build their lives.

It is with great sadness, we send our deepest sympathy to those who are recently bereaved in Winson Green following the loss of life of 3 young men. We admire how the family of those who have lost loved ones have conducted themselves with dignity, restraint and positive messages about how we should work together as they face their loss with courage and resolve.

We are grateful for those who have already begun the work of reconciliation, the practical tasks of clearing up the city and the unseen endeavours of good neighbours.

Let us all recognise and play our part in bringing Birmingham back to being a cohesive and vibrant city where all of our communities live, work, socialise and feel safe alongside each other.

Birmingham Faith Leaders – Press Statement on Birmingham Disturbances

At this time of disorder and in the wake of the violence that has flooded our streets, we, the members of the Birmingham Faith Leaders Group, urge all our communities to join together to rebuild a just, harmonious and peaceful city.

As people of faith we call on you to pray for peace, to pray for those affected by destruction and greed and to pray for those, including the police, working round the clock to maintain the rule of law, care for the distressed and rebuild damaged businesses.

At the same time we ask everyone of goodwill to take urgent practical steps to ensure the flourishing of the city, the safety of our streets and the restoring of relationships that have been damaged over the last few days.

Together we need to be grasped by a vision for the future of the city of Birmingham and ensure it comes to fruition. We encourage those who have direct responsibility for young people in insisting that all those who are growing up in our city have a framework of values and disciplines with which to build their lives.

We will continue to work for communities that live together, connected by trusting relationships, mutual respect and joint enterprise.

We commit ourselves to reduce social inequality that becomes a breeding ground for resentment, greed and spite.

We send our deepest sympathy to those who are recently bereaved in Winson Green and thank them for their example of restraint and dignity as they face their loss with courage and resolve.

We are grateful for those who have already begun the work of reconciliation, the practical tasks of clearing up the city and the unseen endeavours to be good neighbours.

Let us all, like them, do whatever we can to build the common good, to bring hope onto our streets and to chase away the darkness of evil with the light of our faithful good works and prayers.

Notes for Editors

The Birmingham Faith Leaders’ Group is composed of the principal leaders of Birmingham’s six major faith communities – Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists and Jews. The Group grew out of the immediate aftermath of the tragedy of 9/11 and the threats made to the Muslim community at that time. An initial gathering of faith leaders on the steps of Birmingham Central Mosque on 12th September 2001 led to the formation of the Group.

During the subsequent decade the Group’s 14 members have worked together to generate understanding between communities and to develop a diverse, faith-based vision for the city.

For further comment please contact the Executive Secretary, Jonathan Gurling on 0121 608 1328 or 07980 127628.

Appeal to Catholics from Archbishop of Birmingham

by Peter Jennings.

The Most Reverend Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham, said in a statement today, Wednesday 10 August: “With my fellow citizens I am shocked and greatly saddened by the destruction and looting in Birmingham’s city centre and in Handsworth.

“I ask the Catholic community to pray, especially for all those whose livelihood or property has been damaged.

“We also pray for a strengthening of family values and guidance, and for a change of heart among those involved.”

Archbishop Longley added: “Blessed John Henry Newman cared for the poor and needy of Birmingham. As we recall the anniversary of his death – tomorrow, Thursday 11 August – we ask for his prayers for the people of Birmingham and for all our citizens.
We also pray for all the cities and towns in our Archdiocese of Birmingham, especially West Bromwich and Wolverhampton.”

Birmingham Riots: “May Blessed John Henry Newman Intercede for Our City”

by Peter Jennings.

Catholics throughout the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Birmingham been called to pray in a special way for Birmingham following the outbreak of lawlessness in the city during the night of Monday 8 August.

Canon Gerry Breen, the Dean of the Metropolitan Cathedral and Basilica of St Chad, Birmingham, whose parish includes areas of the city centre affected, said in a statement the following afternoon: “All people of good will are dismayed at the current unrest on our streets. It is important for us, particularly Faith Leaders and our communities, to continue to work and pray together for our great City and the welfare of its citizens. At times like this we stand that much closer together.

“We are encouraging our congregations to pray for those whose homes and livelihoods are directly affected. Also to keep in mind the members of the Emergency Services on whom we turn to for help on any day or night of every week.

“As people of faith, we must pray also for the youngsters who are misled by others or misguided in their thinking who are being swept along on this wave of criminality.”

Canon Breen added: “Thursday 11 August marks the anniversary of the death of Blessed John Henry Newman in 1890. He ministered as a priest in the heart of our City to the disadvantaged and the poor, regardless of creed or culture.

“I encourage Catholics, in particular, to seek his intercession in prayer.

“As Pope Benedict XVI reminded us when quoting John Henry Newman during his homily at the Mass of Beatification at Cofton Park, here in Birmingham, just last September: ‘Prayer is the practise of turning to God in every season, in every place, in every emergency.’

“May Blessed John Henry Newman intercede for our City and its people.”

Canon Breen and his counterpart the Very Reverend Catherine Ogle, the Dean of St Philip’s Anglican Cathedral, Birmingham, situated in the heart of the city have excellent ecumenical relations and work together for the good of all Christian traditions and religious faiths in Birmingham.


By Peter Jennings.

Mgr Keith Newton, Ordinary for the Ordinariate, under the Patronage of Blessed John Henry Newman, who took part in the deeply moving and memorable ceremony, said that the number of priests in the Ordinariate now numbered 35.

Bishop Mark Jabalé OSB, Parish Priest of Chipping Norton, Mgr Canon John Moran, Vicar General and Canon Gerry Breen, Dean of the Cathedral, together with more than 30 priests, concelebrated the Mass with the Archbishop of Birmingham.

Celebrating their first Mass as Catholic priests – in order of ordination – were: Fr Richard Smith, Fr John Pitchford, Fr John Lungley, Fr Paul Burch, Fr Christopher Marshall, Fr Matthew Pittam, Fr David Mawson, and Fr Paul Berrett.

During his homily, Mgr Keith Newton addressed the eight former Anglicans and said: “You have been called by Christ – a truth you must never forget – and that calling has been ratified by the Church.

“There is for you all both a sense of continuity and of change. There is continuity because that call to Christian ministry first came to you some years ago, in some cases many years ago. You have many years of faithful service and experience to bring with you, but you will also be aware that your ministry in the future will be set in a totally new context as priest of the Catholic Church.

“Your ordination today will be a fulfilment and completion of all that has gone before. It will also be radically different, as you will exercise that ministry of word and sacrament from the heart of the Church in communion with the successor of Peter, whom Pope Benedict reminded us in his homily at Westminster Abbey ‘is charged with a particular care for the Unity of Christ’s flock’.

Mgr Newton stressed: “First and foremost then you are to be ordained a priest of the Catholic Church. What happens to you today will give you a new authentic authority to your ministry.

“You will discover in the words of Lumen Gentium that ‘There can be no genuine priestly ministry except in communion with the Supreme Pontiff’ and you will share that priestly ministry with every other priest of the Catholic Church.

“One of the most moving parts of the Ordination Rite is the giving of the Kiss of Peace by your brother priests. This profoundly expresses the unity of the priesthood in the Catholic Church.”

Mgr Newtown said: “Though you are ordained for the whole Church you will also be priests within the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. You have all been involved in a spiritual journey, certainly over the last year and probably for much longer than that. It has been a journey not without its difficulties.

“Archbishop Bernard will remind you to: ’model your life on the mystery of the cross.’ These are profound and penetrating words.

“As you look back over the years I am sure you will see the providence of God at work in your lives and that he has brought you now to this joyful moment.”

Mgr Newton emphasised: “As some of the first priest of Our Lady’s Ordinariate you have that special responsibility to help bring to fruition that vision which the Holy Father sets out in the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus.”

Mgr Newton quoted the words of Pope Benedict XVI in his address to the Bishops of England, Scotland and Wales at St Mary’s College, Oscott, on 19 September 2010: “This should be seen as a prophetic gesture that can contribute positively to the developing relations between Anglicans and Catholics. It helps us set our sights on the ultimate goal of all ecumenical activity: the restoration of full ecclesial communion in the context of which the mutual exchange of gifts from our respective spiritual patrimonies serves as enrichment to us all”.

Mgr Keith Newton concluded: “We will do that with humility knowing how much we will be receiving. May God bless you as you serve him as priests of the Catholic Church.”

Before Archbishop Bernard Longley gave the final blessing, Mgr Keith assured the priests of the diocese present that the newly ordained priests of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, wanted to “work co-operatively and fully” with them.


By Peter Jennings.

Archbishop Bernard Longley presided and preached at a special Mass to pray for peace in Pakistan, held at the Metropolitan Cathedral and Basilica of St Chad, Birmingham, on the Fourth Sunday of Lent, 3 April.

Bishop Anders Arborelius, Bishop of Stockholm, Sweden and President of the Bishops’ Conference of Scandinavia, and his Vicar General, who were attending a conference in Birmingham, together with Canon Gerry Breen, Cathedral Dean and Fr Jeremy Howard, Chairman of the Archdiocese of Birmingham Commission for Inter-Religious Dialogue, concelebrated with the Archbishop of Birmingham.

The Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Councillor Len Gregory and the Lady Mayoress, Mrs Gillian Gregory, together with Dr Saeed Khan Mohmand, the Consul General of Pakistan, were among the congregation that included members of other faiths.

A framed picture of Shabhaz Bhatti bedecked with two Pakistan national flags stood on a lectern in a place of honour next to the sanctuary steps.

During his homily Archbishop Bernard Longley said that the Mass was being offered for the repose of the soul of Minister Shabhaz Bhatti; and to pray for God’s peace to prevail among all peoples and in particular in Pakistan.

The Archbishop of Birmingham said: We are very mindful today of all those places where people’s lives have ended in violence. As we pray for Shabhaz Bhatti we also remember those who died yesterday in Afghanistan, and Police Constable Ronan Kerr, aged 25, who died after a device exploded under his car outside his home in Omagh, in Northern Ireland.

“We pray for peaceful solutions to the differences that divide communities across the world even as we thank God for the peaceful co-operation and friendships that unite the varied faith communities of our city.”

Archbishop Longley continued: “Especially today we recall the life of Shabhaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s Minister for Minorities who died tragically and violently at the age of forty-two, in Islamabad on 2 March.

“As a member of the Cabinet of the Federal Government of Pakistan he witnessed to his faith by working for peaceful co-operation between all sectors of society. In particular he sought to make a difference to the lives of the minority groups in Pakistan as he spoke out for moderation and tolerance. You may recall that he was trying to ameliorate the impact of the law regarding blasphemy so that it could not be misused in the pursuit of personal grudges.”

The Archbishop emphasised: “A practising Catholic himself, Shabhaz Bhatti’s death reminds us of the suffering and fears of other Christians and we pray that the sacrifices he made may bear some fruits of unity for all the people of Pakistan.

“Some time before he died Shabhaz Bhatti recorded a message which gives a powerful insight into his life and his faith in Christ. His own eyes were open to the sufferings of many people and his faith drove him to do all that he could to serve the cause of justice and peace.

“In his recorded message he said: Jesus has given me power and wisdom and motivation to serve suffering humanity. I follow the principles of my conscience, and I am ready to die and sacrifice my life for the principles I believe.”

Earlier Archbishop Longley said that Laetare Sunday – Rejoicing Sunday – half way through Lent, was also Mothering Sunday and “a welcome opportunity to give thanks to God for our own mothers and for all mothers in their dedication to their families.”

Post Script: On the same day as the special Mass was celebrated in Birmingham, a triple suicide bombing in Pakistan killed at least 40 people gathered for an annual three-day Sufi religious festival. Sufis are a minority Muslim group who follow mystical beliefs.

The suicide bombers blew themselves up after they were stopped by police outside the crowded Sufi shrine in the Dera Ghazi Khan district in the Eastern Province of Punjab. Dozens of other people were injured in the deadly attack.


By Peter Jennings.

Archbishop Bernard Longley presided and preached at a special Votive Mass of Our Lady of Lourdes in the Metropolitan Cathedral and Basilica of St Chad, Birmingham, on Saturday 12 February.

During his homily at the Mass for World Day of Prayer for the Sick, and the Birmingham Lourdes Hospitalité, the Archbishop of Birmingham said: “Those who have been on pilgrimage to Lourdes will know what a special place it is. You cannot be authentically Catholic and not be aware of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, on your pilgrim way.”

Amongst those in the congregation was Mr Jim McManus, Director of Public Health for Birmingham, who has been awarded ‘The Good Samaritan Medal’, the Vatican’s highest medal for healthcare.

Mr McManus, a founding member of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales Healthcare Reference Group, has produced publications and resources on healthcare for the Catholic Church, and for healthcare workers. He has also worked on behalf of the Catholic Church with Central Government on health and healthcare issues.

After Mass Archbishop Bernard Longley said: “I am delighted that the Holy See has honoured Jim McManus with the ‘The Good Samaritan Medal’. He richly deserves this in recognition of his healthcare advisory work for the Church at national level.

The Archbishop of Birmingham added: “Jim also makes a great contribution to the life of the Archdiocese of Birmingham and his many friends will rejoice with him as he receives this rare award.”

Mr Jim McManus said: ” I feel very privileged to both work in healthcare and volunteer for the Church on healthcare issues, and I hope to continue serving in this way. I had no idea this award was going to be made, but receiving it gives me an opportunity to renew my commitment to do this.” He added: “The Church throughout its history has made a major contribution to healthcare.”

This prestigious award was made to Jim McManus in Rome at the end of a meeting of the Vatican’s Pontifical Health Care Workers by its President, Archbishop Zygmund Zimowski, on the Feast of the Presentation, 2 February.

‘The Good Samaritan Medal’ is awarded by the Holy See to: “Those who serve the sick and suffering in an exceptional way.” Previous recipients include Sir Alexander Fleming.


By Peter Jennings.

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith, MP, visited St Chad’s Sanctuary, a successful a partnership between St Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham, and the Salvation Army West Midlands Division, to care for asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants, on Friday 4 February.

The Secretary of State was welcomed by Archbishop Bernard Longley, Canon Gerry Breen, Cathedral Dean, and Major Samuel Edgar, Divisional Commander of the Salvation Army, West Midlands Division.

During his hour-long visit, Mr Iain Duncan Smith, Leader of the Conservative Party, September 2001 – November 2003, was shown round by Sister Margaret Walsh, an Infant Jesus Sister, Manager of the St Chad’s Sanctuary, situated near the Refugee Council in the heart of Birmingham.

The relaxed Cabinet Minister, himself a Catholic, chatted informally to staff and volunteers and willingly posed with various groups for photographs.

Mr. Iain Duncan Smith set-up the Centre for Social Justice, an independent political think-tank that works with small charities in finding and supporting new and innovative grass-roots approaches to tackling poverty.

Prior to his political career, Mr Iain Duncan Smith, who was born in Edinburgh, served as a British Army Officer in the Scotts Guards, 1975-1981. He served in Northern Ireland and Rhodesia.

St Chad’s Sanctuary is situated next to the Salvation Army, William Booth Centre opposite Archbishop’s House, in Shadwell Street, behind the Metropolitan Cathedral and Basilica of St Chad, Birmingham. The Sanctuary is open Monday to Friday offering a warm welcome to those in need of help and advice.

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, The Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith, MP, pictured with staff and volunteers at the St Chad’s Sanctuary, Birmingham, on 4 February 2011.

Pictures by Peter Jennings.