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Red Mass: Lawyers called to recognise the importance of reconciliation

The annual Mass for members of the legal profession at the beginning of their year, the Red Mass, took place at Westminster Cathedral on the morning of 1 October 2013. The Mass was celebrated by the Rt Rev. Alan Hopes, Bishop of East Anglia and former Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster with over 130 members of the legal profession in attendance.

In his homily Bishop Hopes spoke about the ‘radical promise of reconciliation, of forgiveness’ and the need to look to our own lives before the lives of others:

“The Lord teaches us, not only to forgive, but to ask our heavenly Father everyday to forgive our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. For the one who looks into the hearts and lives of others to find the truth must first face up to the truth in their own lives and hearts. And there is something rather unsettling about approaching the throne of mercy ourselves, conscious of the inadequacies in our own lives and of our own shortcomings.”

Bishop Alan also reflected on the similarities between the work of the judiciary and the priesthood:

“Those of you who are called to minister justice and administer the law are, in many ways, acting in a similar capacity to that of the priest in the confessional. The priest is there to help the sinner to accept responsibility for their actions, to have their conscience informed by the moral teachings of the Church and make restitution for their actions.”

“These must be the highest ideals of our legal system – not simply to punish the offender, but in some way to enhance our society, to challenge them with higher ideals and to bring them with higher ideals and to bring all into fellowship and mutual responsibility.”

The custom of the Red Mass, in which the judiciary and legal profession gather to call on the Holy Spirit to guide their work, was revived in 1891 and received full official recognition in 1898, having been customary prior to the Reformation. It has been celebrated at Westminster Cathedral since 1904.