Archbishop of Westminster

Archbishop Vincent Nichols addresses the first memorial day in the UK for victims of the Srebrenica genocide


Thursday 11 July 2013

Lancaster House


Ladies and Gentlemen,

I stand before you as a man who has dedicated his life, and continues to do so, to one of the world’s great religions.

This evening as I have listened to all that has been so movingly presented to us with a growing sense of shame and humility. This, I know, is a response shared by many of us. I sense it deeply from my own particular point of view.

We know and recognise that the religious quest is interwoven deeply into our shared human nature. We are inherently spiritual beings.

We know that the flag of religious belonging is often used to cover complex and conflicting histories, identities and motivations.

We know that religious belief often flowers in lives of great heroism.

We know that sometimes that belief, and all that it asks of us, is overwhelmed by the instinct and capacity for evil that is within the human heart. Indeed we all know for ourselves the struggle between good and evil within us.

It is so important that we are reminded, over and over again, of the evil that we human beings effect. So this evening I salute and thank the many people who have made sure, by their efforts and their courage, that the events of Srebrenica are not forgotten: photographers, journalists, reporters – and I thank Martin Bell in particular – publishers and, of course those who have given us first hand witness to this genocide. Through their work we have to face the facts of what has been done. We have to ensure that these facts are never lost.

This evening I also want to say, with utter conviction, that faith in God is not a problem to be solved, but a vitally important resource, a gift, which we have to discover afresh and use correctly. Religious faith casts a light on the common humanity of us all. That light deepens our understanding of ourselves, our origins and our ultimate destiny. Religious faith, understood correctly, constantly proposes to us the way of reconciliation, and makes that way a real possibility. Religious faith, properly understood and lives, tells us that we must learn humility, repentance, sorrow. It insists that we must speak of our failure and that we must listen to, heed, the confession of fault that is made by those who have offended. Yet this speaking and hearing must be a speaking and hearing that is founded in love, love for one another. Without that love the pathway of reconciliation remains closed.

Today, 11 July, is declared Srebrenica Memorial Day. In the calendar of the Catholic faith it is also the Feast of St Benedict, the father of European monasticism. Among the saying which express the spirit and greatness of St Benedict are the words, in Latin, ‘Pax inter Spinas’ – Peace among the Spines or Thorns. The people of Srebrenica, as we have so moving heard, suffered greatly through the spines, the thorns, of human cruelty. May that also be a place from which peace truly grows. St Benedict is a great Patron of Europe. May the coming together of his Feast and this Memorial Day be a great sign of hope and of peace for all of Europe.

Thank you.


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