Archbishop of Westminster

Archbishop Nichols shares message of solidarity at the Episcopal Ordination of the new Bishop of Portsmouth

“We belong to each other” was the message of solidarity shared by the Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols at the Episcopal Ordination of Philip Egan at the Cathedral of St John the Evangelist in Portsmouth on 24 September 2012, the feast of Our Lady of Walsingham.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols giving a homily in Westminster CathedralCalling on the Church to understand its strengths and shortcomings through prayer, the Archbishop said: “Prayer is the hallmark of the faith of the Church, that personal movement of the heart to stand in the sun in the light of God’s love. From that light we see so clearly our shortcomings, our narrowness of mind and our need for forgiveness. But it is an eternally comforting light and in its warmth we are healed.”

He said that understanding ourselves and being humbly aware of our true self as a Church would help us interrelate lovingly with one another. 

The sentiment that “we belong to each other” is indicated by Christ on the cross when he addresses Mary and John. Drawing from St John’s Gospel, the Archbishop described Christ’s address to Mary and John at the foot of the Crucifix, as “bringing the Church to birth” by calling us all to be “family in Christ”.

By addressing Mary as John’s mother, and John as Mary’s son, Jesus imbues their lives with new meaning and re-forges their relationship with each other. “From the cross Jesus announces a new way of  life, a new pattern of relationships, a new form of family and one that is stronger and longer lasting than the bonds of blood… “ said Archbishop Vincent.  He then spoke of how this command is extended into our modern-day lives.  Jesus’s words transform how Mary and John may relate to one another, but also what this means for the rest of humanity.  John the disciple, represents Jesus’s faithful followers, and through him Mary is made mother to us all.

Family of Christ

“We are today that family in Christ gathered anew at the foot of the Cross. We hear the same words. We belong to one another, for eternity, by his command and by his grace.”

This message of belonging is at the root of our “communio”:  our fellowship,  our “unity” and our “identity” said the Archbishop, reminding us of the common good, which binds us together.

Solidarity with those in need

Archbishop Vincent also quoted the message of solidarity expressed by Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to St Mary’s College Oscott on 19 September 2010. “Take a lead in calling for solidarity with those in need…. Highlighting the needs of the poor and the disadvantaged… if we are to be effective Christian leaders we must have lives of utmost integrity, humility and holiness”.

Taking place on the feast day of Our Lady of Walsingham, the Archbishop said that Philip of Portsmouth, newly created successor of the Apostles, has been given to this Church by the Lord, and is coming always under the protection of Our Blessed Lady.

It is very much a protective solidarity that the Archbishop discovers in Jesus’s address to Mary and John, each of them an answer to the others suffering and vulnerability at the crucifixion.

Archbishop Vincent said that we should be conscious of the “thirst” of our Precious Lord, and be always able to respond to that thirst for His love to be reciprocated, by serving him in the needs of the poor.

Bishop Philip Egan is the eighth Bishop of Portsmouth. He succeeds Rt Rev Crispian Hollis who has retired. Mass at the Cathedral of St John the Evangelist was concelebrated by Archbishop Vincent Nichols together with Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor and priests and deacons.

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