Archbishop Nichols says at Chrism Mass that priests fail in spectacular and hidden ways

Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster has asked people to pray for priests, saying: “We need it.”

He was speaking at a Chrism Mass at Westminster Cathedral attended by 300 priests from around the diocese as well 1,000 lay people.

The archbishop thanked his priests for their “faithfulness, generosity and constant, daily effort”, but he also spoke about priests’ failure.

Archbishop Nichols said: “We priests, in a special way, are called to be faithful witnesses. Yet we fail. Sometimes our failure is spectacular. Sometimes it remains hidden from general view, known only by those who have been hurt. Yes, in every case our failure does harm to other people.”

He added: “That is why our request for your prayers is made in humility of heart and our seeking of renewal is coupled with our sorrow for our offences.”

The archbishop also talked about the priorities of Pope Francis during his homily.

He said the Pope’s wish for a Church “that is poor and for the poor” and his constant emphasis on the mercy of God were the main strands of his pontificate.

He said the message of God’s mercy was “the key to his pontificate, and a key to the witness that we are to give to the world”.

He said: “Again and again he offers to all people the vision of a God whose face is that of a merciful Father, who never tires of forgiving his children, even when we tire of seeking that forgiveness.”

The archbishop said the “radical poverty” of St Francis of Assisi was the poverty of “our total helplessness and dependence on God for life and hope”.

He said that “without this inner, profound sense of our poverty”, our response to people or who are in material poverty or on the margins “will quickly become distorted, lacking a true heart, patronising”.

Meanwhile Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury also spoke about the teaching of Pope Francis in his Chrism Mass homily in Birkenhead.

He said the Pope teaches “in a way which goes beyond words”.

Speaking at St Michael and All Angels Church, the bishop said: “Our new Holy Father has touched many hearts, not, as yet, by the apostolic letters and teaching documents he will surely write, but by his simple example. He has shown us the priority of prayer; he has visibly embraced the weakest and most vulnerable, and has gone down on his knees to wash the feet of prisoners to show the eternal value and dignity of every human being.”

He said he had seen the same example in all the popes of his lifetime, from the Blessed John XXIII to the “gentle, humble figure of our Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI”.

At the Chrism Mass the bishop blesses the Holy Oils – that is, the oils used in the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and ordination, and in the anointing of the sick – for use in the coming year.