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Extracts from a Homily given at Westminster Cathedral on 3rd October 2022 for the Red Mass to mark the start of the legal year.

I had the joy recently of presiding at ecumenical Vespers in the Charterhouse, here in the heart of London, close by Farringdon Station. We gathered to celebrate the Sesquicentenary, 650th anniversary, of that remarkable place. I was pleased to recall in particular the witness given by the Carthusian monks of that house who made the supreme sacrifice 400 years ago and whose heroism redounds to this day.

I have found myself recalling in recent weeks, as we all witnessed on our television screens the striking proceedings around the death our late Queen Elizabeth and, in particular, the Accession Council, that it was, of course, around these very same matters of Succession, Settlement and Headship of the Church that controversy raged all those centuries ago. As we know, these controversies saw the martyrdom not only of those Carthusians but also of the former Lord Chancellor himself, St Thomas More. I suggest that those of us privileged to breakfast in Westminster Hall later today might pause there to honour the memory of St Thomas More as we pass the plaque which marks the place on which he stood with such courage to defend himself nearly four centuries ago.

What strength must More and those monks have derived from the words we hear the Lord utter today: 'When they take you before synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how to defend yourselves or what to say because, when the time comes, the Holy Spirit will teach you what you must say.' Great must have been the consolation in the Lord’s promise that, 'if anyone openly declares himself for me in the presence of men, the Son of Man will declare himself for him in the presence of God’s angels.'

The heroism of these men I find extraordinarily moving. Every one of the martyrs who went forth from that house has been either canonised or beatified. On the occasion of their canonization, Pope St Paul VI chose to say, 'It is perfectly clear that they are worthy to stand alongside the greatest martyrs of the past.' Pope Paul’s words resonate within me whenever I recount this tale.

But I must declare there also stirs in me something else, two sensations, in fact, which I hope are stirred in you too, as you hear this story: firstly, a conviction that we must never allow Christians to perpetrate such evil on one another again; secondly, the call to pray with increasing urgency for the intercession of these saintly individuals who made the supreme sacrifice to help us work ever harder for the unity of the Church for which they died.  

Our loyal saluting of the King at the conclusion of this Mass and the shared act of worship which takes place later this morning at the Abbey testify eloquently to what is, I trust, our shared conviction that we must do everything in our power, as long as we have the influence and ability, to serve and deepen the unity of Christians in our lands.

Bishop Nicholas Hudson