Thousands of Westminster parishioners, with 170 priests of the Diocese, gathered in the Cathedral of the Most Precious Blood on 28 February to welcome His Eminence Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, at a Solemn Mass and Rite of Reception to mark his return from the Consistory in Rome.
The newly-created Cardinal Nichols entered from Cathedral Piazza through the West Doors, where he was officially greeted by the Auxiliary Bishops of Westminster, the Provost of the Metropolitan Chapter and the Administrator of the Cathedral.
During his homily, Cardinal Vincent reflected on his experience in Rome and praised the performance of the Cathedral choir:
“The choir sang on two occasions: the Public Consistory on Saturday, when the 19 new cardinals were created, through the imposition of the red biretta and the giving of a ring, and the solemn celebration of Mass with the Holy Father on Sunday.”
“I experienced these two emotional events as a real deepening of our bonds with the Holy Father, the successor of St Peter, around whose tomb we were actually gathered. They were also moments of infectious joy, shared, I believe, by all present.”
As part of the celebration of the Mass, items associated with three English Cardinals from the Reformation era – Cardinals St John Fisher (c.1469-1535), Reginald Pole (1500-1558) and William Allen (1532-94) - were brought into Westminster Cathedral to symbolize the restored Catholic Church’s connection to the Reformation Cardinals. Cardinal Vincent spoke about the ‘rich history’ of the Church of which they are part:
“As you will all know, the scarlet of the Cardinal's robes is accepted as a sign of total dedication to the pathway of Christ, even to the shedding of one's blood. There are, in the rich history of the Church, many, many martyrs. There are many Cardinals, too, who have given their all in service of the Church. I think of the line of my predecessors, going back to Cardinal Wiseman. Each one, in his own way, gave of himself unstintingly.”
“But this evening we also look more deeply into our history and as a token of its richness we have brought here these symbols of the bishops' ministry of three other Cardinals who have graced the Church in these lands.”
The Cardinal spoke also of Christ the Good Shepherd, of the powerful example shown by Pope Francis and of the challenge to all of us to guide and support those around us:
“Our Alleluia verse at Mass this evening consisted of these words: 'I am the good shepherd; I know my own and they know me.' We are surrounded by the example of so many outstanding shepherds, including Pope Francis, who stands as first among all earthly shepherds. He certainly inspires me, with his inner peace, with his directness of speech, with his eloquent actions and ability to touch our hearts. But there are many shepherds present here this evening, also to be inspired. Parents, be inspired to be good shepherds of your families. Teachers, be good shepherds of your pupils. Employers, look after your workforce. Priests, be true shepherds of your parishes; and may this Cardinal be always true to his new-found role.”
Also in attendance were Bishops from dioceses throughout England and Wales, including Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Archbishop Emeritus of Westminster. A Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving will be celebrated by Cardinal Vincent on Sunday 2 March, to which everyone is also welcome.
For Cardinal Nichols's Homily click here.