Given at the Metropolitan Police Annual Memorial Service, Hendon, on 14th June 2018
I am pleased to have received this invitation to address this solemn Ceremony of Remembrance for all your fellow officers and police staff who have lost their lives in the course of duty. This is a privileged moment for me to pay my tribute to those who strive courageously to serve our society, often without thought for their own safety. I salute you most sincerely.
Some years ago I was Archbishop of Birmingham. I met occasionally with the then Chief Constable of the West Midlands Police Force. We chatted about the people under our respective commands, not about individuals, but about traits, characteristics, and problem dynamics. We talked about their strengths and weaknesses.
I have often pondered those conversations, how the great strength of police officers is often their commitment to justice; how for my Catholic priests is was often the quality of compassion that stood out. Sometimes, for us that can lead to gullibility; for you, pervasive suspicion. But what is most important is to know the virtues by which we strive to live.
A partnership between justice and compassion is always needed. I rejoice in the partnerships which exist between us: in the fight against human trafficking; in using Catholic parishes and schools in the fight against knife crime; in the respective roles we play in the face of violent attacks, even in the last few days with the killing of an Albanian man in the Turnpike Road area, where the Catholic priest offers his care and prayer for those who mourn and you pursue the justice that must follow these horrendous crimes.
Virtue shapes our living and, all too often, our dying.
Today we solemnly remember those whose commitment to justice led them to respond with selfless courage in the tragedies that have hit London in these last twelve months. We remember those who lost their lives confronting evil, protecting the vulnerable, pursuing the criminal.
The practice of a virtue takes us beyond every pragmatic and practical calculation. The pursuit of justice, this particular imperative, takes us to a wider horizon, to a yearning for something more. It rises within us as a spirit that moves us to act beyond cautious duty to become part of a nobler tradition, a greater whole. The source and origin of that spirit within us, that imperative within our makeup, is something which, since time began, men and women have called God. There is within each of us a spirit, unique and irrepressible, which is expressed in different ways and in different longings. This is the gift of the Creator Spirit of God who is not only our origin but also our destiny. For we are not created for futility but rather for the fulfilling of our spiritual and bodily selves, a fulfilment that awaits us, beyond this world and its ending, in the all-embracing presence of God.
So it is with a full heart that I gladly, prayerfully, commend to God those whose memory we honour today and I assure you all of my thankful prayers to God for you, for your protection, for your virtue in the pursuit of justice and for your service in our society today.