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Mass and Rite of Reception for Cardinal Vincent Nichols

Installation of Eleventh Archbishop of Westminster

The Most Reverend Vincent Gerard Nichols has been installed as the Eleventh Archbishop of Westminster during a Mass of Installation held at Westminster Cathedral, from 12.00 noon to 1.45 pm on Thursday 21 May 2009, and attended by a congregation of 2,200 specially invited guests.

Amongst those present at the Mass of Installation were: Lord Guthrie, representing HRH Prince Charles; Rt Hon Paul Murphy representing The Prime Minister, Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP; The Duke of Norfolk; Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor; Cardinal Sean Brady; Cardinal Roger Mahoney; Cardinal Keith O’Brien; the Papal Nuncio, His Excellency, Archbishop Faustino Sainz Muñoz; Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury; Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York;  The Lord Mayor of Westminster, Councilor Duncan Sandys; Francis Campbell, the  British Ambassador to the Holy See; Sir Gus O Donnell,  Head of the Cabinet Office; 50 Catholic Bishops; over 500 priests from the Archdiocese of Birmingham and the Diocese of Westminster together with  MPs, Peers, Ambassadors and representatives of parishes,  schools and Catholic societies and organisations.

The Mass of Installation was broadcast live in the UK on BBC- 2 (and can be seen in the UK on the BBC iPlayer until 28th May 2009) and also around the world by EWTN, the Catholic Satellite Television Channel.

The Mass of Installation followed a Service of Solemn Vespers, which was held at Westminster Cathedral at 7.00pm on Wednesday 20th May. This was attended by Archbishop Vincent Nichols and an estimated 2,000 specially invited guests including Religious Sisters, Brothers and Priests and representatives from schools, parishes and Catholic societies and organisations from the Diocese of Westminster.

Ceremony of Reception and Installation

The ceremony of the Reception and Installation of the Archbishop of Westminster was carried out according to the ancient Catholic rite used in similar circumstances for the Reception and Installation of the Archbishops of Canterbury prior to the Reformation.

At 12.00 noon, to the sound of a specially composed fanfare, Archbishop Vincent Nichols entered Westminster Cathedral by the main West Door, and was greeted by the Provost of Westminster Cathedral, Canon Michael Brockie.  He then processed to the High Altar where he joined over 150 Clergy in the Cathedral’s Sanctuary, including Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, 50 Catholic Bishops, the Provost and Chapter of Westminster Cathedral, Deans and the Vicar General of the Diocese of Westminster, Monsignori and ecumenical guests including Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Most Reverend Vincent Gerard Nichols officially become the 11th Archbishop of Westminster at around 12.15 pm after the reading aloud of Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Letter of Authority, or Papal Mandate, by Bishop John Arnold, Chancellor of the Diocese of Westminster, and the formula of Installation by the Provost of Westminster Cathedral, Canon Michael Brockie.  

The Archbishop-Emeritus, His Eminence Cormac Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor then presented the new Archbishop with the Crozier, the bishop’s staff, symbolic of his office as bishop. The Provost and Canons of the Metropolitan Chapter then greeted the new Archbishop, followed by other representatives of the Diocesan clergy, ethnic chaplaincies, pastoral and administrative bodies.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, then greeted Archbishop Nichols on behalf of the co-presidents of Churches Together in England.

“In recent years, the relations between the churches in this country have become closer and warmer than perhaps ever before.  The fact that the Anglican and Roman Catholic Bishops in England have been able to meet more than once for prayer and reflection, as well as for discussion of the challenges we share in witnessing to the Christian faith in our nation, is a welcome development, and a sign that we all recognise common challenges and a need to pray and act together.

The Roman Catholic and Anglican communities in England and Wales have the God-given task, along with all our other brothers and sisters in the faith, of making the Good News of Jesus compelling and attractive to a generation deeply in need of hope and meaning, in need of something they can trust with all their hearts.

Dear Vincent, I hope that as you join us as a co-president of the Churches Together in England we may work together at this task:  as I had the privilege and delight of working with your predecessor, who was and is such a friend and example to us all.

May God give you the strength, the vision and the wisdom you need for the great responsibility he has laid upon you.  Be sure of the love and prayers of all your colleagues in the churches of England and Wales as you take up the yoke of Christ in this fresh ministry.  We give God thanks for you, and hope for many years of fruitful and exciting work together for Our Lord, in the service of his Kingdom and his justice. “


Taking the figure of St Paul (whose conversion on the road to Damascus is described in the readings of the Scriptures during the mass) as the starting point for the Homily, Archbishop Nichols focused on three central themes: 

The need for and relevance of faith in God as it opens us up to what lies beyond and everyone’s inner life is crucial for their wellbeing. 

The Church builds communities and brings social cohesion as faith requires a public dimension. 

Faith and reason complement each other. In the words of Pope John Paul II  “Faith and reason are the two wings on which the human spirit soars”. 

The Mass

The Mass, determined by Archbishop Vincent Nichols, was a Votive Mass of Saint Paul reflecting the fact that Pope Benedict XVI declared June 2008-2009 as the Year of St Paul. Readings and prayers reflected this theme.

The first reading was given by Mrs. Chris Nichols, sister in Law of the Archbishop. The second reading was given by Mrs. Jennifer Davies, Secretary to the Archbishop of Birmingham and who worked with Archbishop Nichols for a number of years.

Just before the liturgy of the Eucharist, an offertory of gifts of bread and wine was presented to Archbishop Nichols by members of the Archbishops family including his  brother, John Nichols.


Two antiphon texts traditionally sung at the Installation of Archbishops were composed for the occasion by James MacMillan. Two brass fanfares were composed by Colin Mawby, former Master of Music of Westminster Cathedral.

The Mass was sung by 19 Choristers and 10 Lay Clerks of Westminster Cathedral Choir and the Organ played by Matthew Martin and Charles Cole under the direction of Martin Baker, Master of Music.

The fanfares were  performed by 4 Trumpeters, 3 Trombones and 1 Timpani of the Royal Academy of Music, conducted by James Watson.

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