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Making Unity Our Goal: Nations come together for Westminster Cathedral’s Olympic Mass

Worshippers from around the world came together to give thanks for the Olympic Games at a Mass held in Westminster Cathedral on Saturday 28 July 2012.

During the Mass, the congregation heard the message shared by Archbishop Vincent Nichols : “Use your body for the glory of God”.  Picking up on the central theme of this year’s Day for Life Sunday celebrated by the Catholic Church, the Archbishop reminded the congregation that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, enhancing the deepest meaning of the achievements of sport, that of giving “glory to their Maker. “

Speaking of the high ideals held up by the Olympic Games the Archbishop referred to fairness in competition, friendship between adversaries, individual achievement and national pride. And he will also speak of how these ideals, in order to be effective, need to be put into practice. Part of doing so involves what Blessed John Paul II said to competitors in the 1985 European Games for the Blind. The Archbishop quoted from Pope John Paul II, “Your sporting achievements are a sign of your great human capabilities. You do not allow yourselves to be overcome by difficulties but are determined to conquer them. In this you show courage and great gifts of mind and will.”

In his homily, Archbishop Nichols reflected on the 100 Days of Peace, encouraging schools to train for peace just as athletes have been training for their events. “The classic virtues of temperance, fortitude, justice and courage were explored as the foundation of true human achievement, whether in citizenship or sport.”

Archbishop Nichols said that the recent establishment in this country of the John Paul II Foundation for Sport, launched by Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to the UK in 2010, can be “the vehicle through which our Catholic community can help our society build a legacy worthy of these Games.”

The Archbishop reminded the congregation  “let us also reawaken in ourselves the belief that our bodies too are always of beauty in the eyes of God and are destined to rise again to eternal life, at the  moment to come, when all is made new in the power of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Preceding his homily Archbishop Vincent Nichols read a message from the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI for the 2012 Olympic Games given during his Angelus Address in Rome on 22 July 2012.

The Service was attended by almost a 1000 people from all over the world, including dignitaries such as the Ambassador of Paraguay, High Commissioner of Jamaica, High Commissioner of Trinidad, and international Chaplains to the Olympic Teams. Many worshipers came in national dress, representing their countries and forming a spectacular display of diversity and traditions. The Olympic Torch was brought in with the procession and a sculpture of five Olympic Rings, created at waist height as part of a celebration around disability, was placed outside the Cathedral.

James Parker, Catholic Executive Coordinator of the 2012 Games said of the Mass : “Ensuring an open door policy so that anyone could attend, many spoke afterwards of suddenly feeling included in the Games... The Mass also helped worshippers to make sense of the deeper significance of the Games. What became particularly evident is that for 17 days the Olympic Games brings the world together as one. Yet for us as Catholics we have the profound privilege of experiencing this global unity at each and every celebration of the Mass.”

One Argentinean lady living in London commented after the Mass: “Today’s Mass has helped me to better understand why the Olympics are important. Through the Mass I can find a deeper dignity for my body and for my potential.”