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Archbishop: ‘Make the faith more visible’

By on Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Archbishop Nichols: 'With the blessings of this visit we can be more confident in our faith' (Photo: PA)

Archbishop Nichols: 'With the blessings of this visit we can be more confident in our faith' (Photo: PA)

Catholics in London are being encouraged to make their faith more visible in daily life in the aftermath of the Pope’s state visit to Britain.

They should offer to pray for people, bless themselves openly with the Sign of the Cross or make such remarks to people as “God bless you”.

The suggestions were made by Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster in a pastoral letter read out in the 214 parishes of his diocese, which covers London north of the Thames, during Masses last weekend.

“With the blessings of this visit we can be more confident in our faith and more ready to speak about it and let it be seen each day,” the Archbishop said in his letter.

“A small step we can all take is to be quicker to say to others that we will pray for them, especially to those in distress,” he said. “Prayer is the first fruit of faith in the Lord and we grow so much by giving prayer its place in our homes and in our hearts.

“Even the simple step of more regularly using the greeting ‘God bless you’, gently and naturally, would make a difference to the tone we set in our daily lives as would the more frequent use of the Sign of the Cross. Making faith visible is so much a part of the invitation the Holy Father has extended to us all.”

He explained that Catholics should see such public witness as a response to Pope Benedict XVI’s wish, expressed during his visit, that they became “ever more conscious of their dignity as a priestly people, called to consecrate the world to God through lives of faith and holiness”.

The letter represents the first address on the subject of the papal visit by the Archbishop, the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, to the people of his archdiocese since the Pope departed.

In the letter he thanked Queen Elizabeth II for inviting the Pope to England and Scotland along with everyone who played a part in preparing for the visit “through difficulties, doubts and criticism” as well as those who attended papal events or who turned out to see the Pontiff.

He said the Pope’s presence had “brought such joy and given a great boost to so many”.

“The Holy Father has given us new heart for our mission,” Archbishop Nichols said, adding that in his address Westminster Cathedral the Pope “spelt out that task” that lay ahead. “He said we are to be witnesses to the beauty of holiness, to the splendour of the truth and to the joy and freedom born of a living relationship with Christ,” he explained.

He recalled the “beauty of holiness” during such moments as the prayer vigil in Hyde Park, London, when 80,000 people prayed in silence before the Blessed Sacrament. “We witness best to the splendour of the truth of our faith when we follow the example given by Pope Benedict,” he said. “In speaking of our faith he was always so gentle and courteous, so sensitive to the achievements and anxieties of his listeners, so clear and reasoned in presenting difficult points, so humble and open-hearted. We must strive for these same qualities when speaking about our faith, in witnessing to its truth.”

He said the Pope had shown what Christian “joy and freedom” meant by his “unfailing generosity” in responding to individuals and crowds. “I thank God for our Pope and for all the blessings of this visit from which we have so much to ponder and learn for a long time to come,” the Archbishop said.
The call to make faith more visible is likely to be interpreted as an attempt to counter a trend, which had gathered pace under the last government, to squeeze religion from public life. This saw Christians of all denominations endure harassment, suspension, dismissal, arrest and rejection after publicly expressing their beliefs.

Caroline Petrie, a nurse from Weston-super-Mare who is also a Baptist, was last year suspended and disciplined by the North Somerset Primary Care Trust after she offered to pray for an elderly patient.
The right of Christians to assert their beliefs in public was one of the key themes of Pope Benedict’s visit to Britain. He raised the subject during an address to a civic audience in Westminster Hall, close to the spot where St Thomas More was condemned to death in 1535 after refusing to condone the adultery of King Henry VIII.

Evangelical Christians, many of whom have suffered under new equality and human rights legislation, are aiming to reclaim their place in the public arena with their “Not Ashamed” campaign which will be launched by Christian Concern for Our Nation.

Announcing the campaign spokeswoman Andrea Minichiello Williams said: “There is growing pressure in our society to remove Jesus Christ (and the values and truths revealed through Him) from public life and to restrict Him to the domain of the ‘private and personal’.

“Increasingly, Christians are finding that they are barred from the workplace and community involvement if they are not prepared to compromise the biblical teaching on belief and behaviour.

“Meanwhile our society continues to fragment and faces enormous change and challenge. Yet in some quarters of the Church there seems to be a collapse in confidence that Jesus Christ really is ‘good news’ for individuals and for our nation as a whole.”

She said that the group was encouraging its supporters to wear crosses on December 1, the launch date.
Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, is writing a booklet explaining why Christians are “not ashamed” of Jesus Christ and MPs will be presented with a declaration by the group.

  • Ratbag

    Will those PC 'Jobsworths' – who have practically persecuted practising Christians – realise that they have used the word discrimination to twist and abused it for their own agenda and ended up GETTING IT 100% WRONG? Do they realise now that they have missed out on employing a richly talented, principled, consciencious, skilled and efficient workforce through their sheer ass-headedness?

    I'd like to think they did.

    I have not stopped wearing my cross, nor blessing myself when passing a church where the Real Presence is or when a cortege passes me by etc. I openly argued with a market stall holder who sold rosary beads as 'fashion necklaces', risking the ogling of onlookers (I didn't care much about those). Even when I told him that he could sell them for an extra £1 on top of his asking price (and in line with those sold on piety stalls and in the CTS), he still felt affronted by my argument! In the end, though, he discreetly sold them as 'Rosary Beads'.

    I agree that we need to be more expressive and not ashamed to be Christian but beware of making it into a cosmetic exercise. Let us be Christ-like examples to our fellow people, too!

  • Jhammer

    Yes it's in the everyday things that we might witness. Imagine a family at Pizza Express on a Saturday evening saying grace before tucking in! This would show people publicly that firstly, it was not shocking and secondly it might begin to make other people aware how secularized they had become! I've found myself using 'God bless you” quite a bit and, surprise, people seem to quite like it! I've also strated saying the Hours at work, well the midday hour anyway, and if anyone comes along I shall invite hem to join me :)

  • Scouse007

    which mp's will be presented with the declarationa

  • witness2hope

    Be strong my brothers and sister in Christ!

    I'm praying for all of you in the U.K. and for the world. I have read all your comments, and was so happy that you all are making the sign of the cross, sharing prayers, and defending the faith — you give me extra strength as well!

    here is a quote from the encyclical “Veritatis Splendor” by Pope John Paul II that gives me courage and hope:

    “The splendour of truth shines forth in all the works of the Creator and, in a special way, in man, created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen 1:26). Truth enlightens man's intelligence and shapes his freedom, leading him to know and love the Lord. Hence the Psalmist prays: “Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord” (Ps 4:6).”


  • Lnewington

    I often wonder if these “photogenic” princes and prelates of the church stand in front of the mirror and practice their poses.

    This one hasn't put his best side forward a God Bless you and the joy of the Lord in his heart

  • louella

    I think the 'not ashamed' campaign has a negative ring about it. It implies that shame is associated with Jesus Christ – but those involved in the campaign are exceptions.

    How about a more positive campaign like 'Christ – God Made Man' or 'Christ the Divine King' which actully teach people who Christ is and why we follow Him.

  • witness2hope

    @ Lnewington: They are human, after all. We can pray and let the Holy Spirit work on their hearts and minds.

  • Phillip Turnbull

    One of the most spirit lifting signs here in Indonesia (apart from attending one of 5 Sunday masses in my local parish church with approximately 3,000 at each mass) is observing faithful catholics reverently making the Sign of the Cross and saying grace before melas in restaurants. It has both shamed me and encouraged me. Apart from this, one never knows the grace it may confer on another soul in that place and rekindle in them a long abandoned faith that simple needed a spark to set it alight again.

    There was a time when Catholic mothers made a sign of the cross (with the bread knife) over each new loaf of bread before they cut it.

    There was a time when catholics only ate fish and chips on Friday.

    Here in Jakarta, women only ever wear a black dress (some very fashionable ones!) to the Good Friday Liturgy. See a woman in the street in black on Good Friday and you know she is a Catholic. It is a very visible and encouraging sign, especially when you are a minority. I don't see anything wrong with it and certainly nothing to apologize for.

    All these things gave us a sense of identity and community. Perhaps (in Britain and Australia) were in a ghetto years ago – perhaps not. Slim chance of that happening now anyway. But some of these catholic customs ought to be reclaimed and encouraged.

    Thanks to the Archbishop for reminding us of them.

  • Lnewington

    They are human yes, but sooooo superficial.

  • David Armitage

    Footballers making multiple signs of the cross, raising their eyes to the heavens when they score, Tour de France riders congratulating Jesus instead of their pharmaceutical company, are making faith more visible – and opening it up to ridicule. Back to the drawing board, Archbishop Nichols. Oscar Romero and the murdered Jesuits of El Salvador spring to mind.”Pope Benedict in speaking of our faith was always so gentle and courteous, so sensitive to the achievements and anxieties of his listeners, so clear and reasoned in presenting difficult points, so humble and open-hearted.” Eh? Admittedly the Sacred Congregation doesn't go in for public burning of dissenters, but under Ratzinger it did make life hell on earth for many a theologian.

    I'm grateful to Philip Turnbull for sharing the example of Indonesian Catholics in Djakarta. I must have missed them, working in a refugee camp on a far flung island. Indonesia has the world's largest Moslem population. In the seventies and eighties they displayed the Q'ran's virtue of hospitality by welcoming hundreds of thousands of boat people, saving thousands from drowning or dying of thirst and starvation, giving food and shelter while the wealthiest countries haggled over how many they should take in. “As long as you do it to one of these the least of my brethren……” The papal visit has certainly reinforced the personality cult of pope's and prelates, and done a great service to the Christian faith why showing us what it is not.


  • tiggy

    The above pic. Rev William Hague??

  • Karmenu of Malta

    Christmas is approaching. May I suggest that, in our efforts at making Christ more visible in our lives, we should refuse to use Christmas cards that do not include a written or pictorial reference to Our Lord.

    Even more important, we should make it a point to participate in the Christmas religious services, and to publicly unite our community prayers with those of other Christians who do not subscribe fully and completely to our own religious beliefs.