Gerrit van Honthorst
Adoration of the Child c.1620
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence
The significance of Christmas, the miracle of Christmas, is that
God, the Almighty and all powerful, in the person of his Son,
clothed himself in the cloak of our weak and fragile humanity.
With incredible humility and compassion God took on our mortality,
not standing aloof from our suffering, but suffering and dying
himself for our sake. And by rising from the dead, he clothed our
human nature with immortality.
The whole of human history was moving towards that moment when God would reveal himself in an utterly unique way. And he revealed himself not with a triumphal fanfare, not in earthquake and fire, not in an earth shattering display of divine power, but in the humble birth of a vulnerable little child.
“In him we see our God made visible and so are caught up in the God we cannot see.” This is the true meaning of Christmas! But whilst we make our pilgrim journey through this life in the light of Christ, his presence and power do not enable us to escape from the human condition. He doesn’t spare us strife and difficulty, suffering and pain, doubts and uncertainty. But his presence in our lives gives us meaning, strength and hope, reminding us constantly of his love and the love of our Father in heaven. That gives us the courage to persevere in our faith journey, come what may.
I pray that God may bless you all and give you the gifts of his love, peace and joy this Christmas and throughout the New Year.
Archbishop of Southwark
Szépmûvészeti Múzeum, Budapest
Archbishop Peter has written a Pastoral Letter to the diocese for the Feast of the Holy Family on the 26th December 2010.
He asks that by imitating the example of the Holy Family - an example of a deep relationship with God and of unconditional love - 'Our homes should shine out as "holy places", a communion of life and love rooted in our relationship with God and reflected in our love for one another.'
At the beginning of the new year, the Archbishop encourages us to 'take seriously the challenge to make a fresh start with God, a fresh start at home and a fresh start for the world's poor. This is the perennial challenge of the Gospel. It is the challenge to live lives of authentic love, of genuine faith and firm hope ... with greater commitment. We are called to be people of compassion and kindness, treating others with the respect and honour which is their due because they are images of God.'
He also asks that we 'give a new start to those families broken and grievously wounded through separation or divorce. ... Let no one judge them' rather 'welcome them within the community of the Church.'
Archbishop Peter presided at the 10:00 am Family Mass at St George's Cathedral on Christmas Day. After Mass, he gave chocolates to the children as a Christmas gift and met many of the congregation to give his personal Christmas greetings.
In his homily, Archbishop Peter described Christmas as 'pre-eminently a season of hope': 'Whatever the appearances, whatever we might feel, whatever the apparent rejection of Christ and his message, we are called to believe, to trust, that Christ has come into our world to redeem it from sin and evil, and that his light will never be extinguished however much, from time to time, the contrary might appear to be true. We are called to hope, to believe and to trust that he will come again, and will finally resore all things to himself in a kingdom of love, justice and peace.'
Archbishop Peter gives the homily
Ready to give chocolates to the children
The Cathedral Girls' Choir after the Family Mass
Meeting the people after the Family Mass
Prisoners heard again the good news of the Christmas message from our bishops who offered Mass in four prisons within our diocese on the morning of Christmas Day:
both HMP Stanford Hill and HMP Swaleside,
Bishop Patrick at HMP Brixton and
Bishop Paul at HMP Wandsworth.
Christmas is a time when those in prison feel particularly isolated and our bishops wanted to assure them of God's love for them and to share with them something of the joy and hope that flows from the birth of Jesus.
We keep in our prayers those in prison, those in hospital, those serving abroad in the armed forces and all who are alone or away from their families and friends this Christmas.
Canon James Cronin presided at the Service of Readings and Carols at St George's Cathedral after which Archbishop Peter was principal celebrant at Midnight Mass.
During his homily, Archbishop Peter spoke of the unconditional love of God for every person. 'It is in that steady, unwavering light of God's unconditional love for us, revealed in the Incarnation, that we can find the courage and the strength to share in the ministry of Jesus Christ in our own times, by making our own unique contribution to the task of healing human brokenness, to fostering peace and harmony in human relationships and to bringing that light and love of Christ into the world we live in.'
BBC Radio 4 on Christmas Eve at about 7:45 am
Pope Benedict XVI will give the 'Thought for the Day' on BBC Radio 4 this Friday, 24th December 2010, Christmas Eve. His words will be broadcast during the 'Today' programme at about 7:45 am. This short Christmas meditation and greeting was recorded in Rome on Wednesday, 22nd.
This is the first time that a Pope has made a
broadcast specifically for radio or television. It is interpreted
as being a 'thank-you' for the warm welcome he was given on his
visit to Great Britain, which he has recently described as
As early as February this year, the BBC invited the Holy Father to give the 'Thought for the Day' during his visit. This was not to happen.
Gwyneth Williams, the controller of Radio 4,
said: 'I'm delighted Pope Benedict is sharing his Christmas
message with the Radio 4 audience.'
'It's significant that the Pope has chosen Thought For The Day to give his first personally scripted broadcast - and what better time to do so than on the eve of the biggest celebration on the Christian calendar.'
Archbishop Peter was due to give this broadcast ... it is not often that a Metropolitan Archbishop is upstaged!
Update (24-12-10 8:00 am) Listen to the Holy Father's Thought for the Day or read the transcript on the BBC's web site
Or watch a slightly edited version from the Vatican Television Centre
Thursday, 23rd December
Emmanuel, you are our king and judge, the one whom the peoples await and their Saviour. O come and save us, Lord, our God.
On Monday, 18th December 2010, Archbishop Peter and Father Philip Glandfield braved the snow and ice to travel to the Isle of Sheppey. They attended the Carol Service at HMP Swaleside.
The Archbishop's visit reminded the prisoners that, although they were away from family and friends this Christmas, they were still members of our diocesan family which would celebrate with them that inner freedom and joy that the birth of Christ has brought to all.
Bishop John will be offering Mass at HMP Swaleside on Christmas Day.
On Saturday, 18th December 2010, Bishop Kieran Conry, Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, ordained four men to the diaconate in the chapel of St John's Seminary, Wonersh.
Among them was Jonathon Routh, a Southwark seminarian from Canterbury, who hopes to be ordained to the priesthood next year.
The new deacons had been on retreat in preparation for their ordination and on the vigil of the ceremony, there was a Holy Hour at the seminary, followed by Night Prayer and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
Our congratulations to Jonathon and an assurance of our prayers.
The 2011 edition of the Southwark Catholic Directory has been published and will be available in most parishes throughout the diocese.
The Directory gives details of the Diocesan Curia and Offices and of all parishes, religious houses and schools in the diocese.
It includes a Liturgical Calendar for the year.
In his foreword, Archbishop Peter recalls the encouragement that Pope Benedict XVI gave during his visit: 'In essence he called us all to a deep spiritual renewal rooted in personal prayer, the Eucharist and the Sacraments.'
The Archbishop suggests that we might make a start in reponding to the Holy Father's challenge by beginning each day with a simple prayer:
'Lord open my ears that I may hear;
open my eyes that I may see;
open my heart to welcome your transforming presence
in all that I do and say today.
And then spend a little time listening to the Word of God speaking deep in our hearts.'
With standard binding: £3:00;
with spiral binding: £3:50
The Holy Father has chosen Archbishop Antonio Mennini to be the new Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain in succession to Archbishop Faustino Sainz Muñoz, who retired earlier this month due to ill health.
Archbishop Antonio was born in Rome in 1947 and ordained for the Rome diocese in 1974.
He has been in the Holy See's diplomatic service since 1981. He has served as Apostolic Nuncio in Bulgaria and is currently Apostolic Nuncio to the Russian Federation and Uzbekistan.
His appointment is expected to be officially announced in the new year.
We will welcome him when he arrives and keep him in our prayers.
Bishop Patrick, Chairman of the Office for Migration Policy of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, has welcomed the Government’s announcement aimed at ending the detention of children and their families in the immigration system. Bishop Patrick writes:
'I welcome the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s announcement on Ending the Detention of Children for Immigration Purposes. I am encouraged by the Coalition Government’s commitment to end this shameful practice.
I also welcome the announcement that the Family Unit in Yarls Wood will be closed with immediate effect, fulfilling the Government‘s promise that there will be no children in detention this Christmas as well as the commitment to the closure of Tinsley House immigration removal centre by 11 May 2011.
The creation of the Independent Family Returns Panel of experts is a positive development; however, the composition of that panel remains a deep concern.
The Government’s plan to overhaul the Asylum system with improvements in quality decision making and early access to legal advice is to be welcomed.
I remain deeply concerned about any policies that will force the return of families to countries (such as Iraq and Zimbabwe) where the Church, Voluntary agencies and Human Rights organisations report a resurgence in religious or politically motivated violence.'
This September saw the numbers entering English seminaries to become Catholic priests at their highest level in a decade. Fifty-six men began the journey towards priesthood this year including three new seminarians for Southwark.
Vocation Directors at the shrine of the Blessed John Henry Newman
At their annual conference held last week at Oscott seminary in Birmingham, the diocesan Vocations Directors of England and Wales discussed the approaches to vocations work that have contributed to this increase.
Fr Stephen Langridge, who is chairman of the Conference, spoke of the shift in attitude from recruitment to discernment in vocations work. Although much more time-consuming, it is ultimately much more fruitful. It also helps dispel any suspicion that a diocesan vocations director is coming, like the Pied Piper, to whisk young men off to the seminary and so helps allay concerns of religious orders or those who work with young people in our dioceses. "The first task", says Fr Stephen, "is to put young men and women in contact with Christ. He will do the rest".
Many dioceses and religious orders now run discernment groups for young men and women where all vocations are discussed. The Quo Vadis discernment group continues to flourish in Southwark and two of its members have now joined the seminary. A similar group has been established in Birmingham. The Compass project, which began at Worth, is also going strongly and a second group, Compass North West, has begun in the northern province.
Fr Stephen also spoke recently to the Irish Vocations Directors at their annual meeting to explain some of the recent developments in vocations ministry in England and Wales.
Archbishop Peter's recent visit
During a visit to St John's Seminary, Wonersh, last month, Archbishop Peter was photographed with Southwark seminarians ...
Discovering Priesthood Day
Each year the Southwark Vocations Office organises a "Discovering Priesthood Day" at St John's Seminary, Wonersh. The purpose of the day is to give young men a chance to visit the seminary and to meet seminarians who are ready to share with them something of their own vocation story.
During the day they also learn about the priesthood and priestly
ministry and about the application process. This year the
Discovering Priesthood Day took place in November and was attended
by eighteen young men. Fr Paul Turner, the Vocations Director of
Arundel and Brighton, presided at the Mass before lunch, and the
day concluded with a Holy Hour and Vespers in the college Chapel.
The Southwark Vocations Office organises vocations events throughout the year. It also runs the Quo Vadis Group - a vocations discernment group for 16-24 year olds. For more information, please contact us at email@example.com
A new film about Oscar Romero, the Archbishop of San Salvador, who was assasinated while he was offering Mass on 24th March 1980, was given its first screening in the Amigo Hall on Monday, 13th December 2010.
The film, produced by film-makers from Notre Dame University in the USA, was sponsored by the Romero Trust. It was a fitting tribute to the impact that Archbishop Romero had on Latin America that the Ambassadors for El Salvador, Colombia, Cuba and Ecuador were all present. They were welcomed by Bishop Patrick.
The film had two screenings in the Amigo Hall, one in Spanish and one in English. It is due to go on general release in the Summer of 2011.
Hundreds of schoolchildren packed St George’s Cathedral on Monday, 13th December 2010, for the De Paul Trust’s CHRISTINGLE SERVICE, launching a series of events to take place at Catholic cathedrals up and down the country.
Schools from all over the diocese took part, and each child was handed a specially decorated orange, topped with a candle, to symbolise the Body of Christ, his wounds, and the fact that Christ is the Light of the World.
At the focal point of the service, at which Fr John Diver presided, the children formed a large circle around the interior of the Cathedral, holding their lit Christingles, while they prayed for peace and the coming of Christ at Christmas.
On Saturday, 11th December 2010, Archbishop Peter offered Mass at St John's Seminary, Wonersh, during which he admitted nine men as Candidates for the Permanent Diaconate. These included two for Southwark: Mathew Manoharan (Lewisham Parish) and Jolyon Vickers (Tenterden Parish).
Archbishop Peter with the nine men admitted to Candidacy
Archbishop Peter with Fr Peter Edwards, Fr Ashley Beck and all the
students on Year Three of the Diaconate course
Archbishop Peter with the Southwark group - students, wives,
Director and Assistant Directors of the Permanent Diaconate
On the evening of 8th December 2010, fifty-five people met at the Christian Education Centre to explore a Catholic approach to the theology of disability.
The gathering, which included our three auxiliary bishops, heard talks from Liam Waldron and Cristina Gangemi, our diocesan adviser on disabilities. Both Liam and Cristina spoke of how Catholic theology holds so much hope for disabled people and that we should all ensure that they are not only included, but are made to feel that they belong in our communities, in our lives and in our hearts.
Professor Simon Lee observed after the event that Southwark had
been extremely blessed to welcome two popes to the diocese:
'When Pope John Paul II came to Southwark it was with disabled people in the Cathedral. Then Pope Benedict comes to Southwark as a brother of the elderly at St Peter's. How many dioceses have had two papal visits in thirty years, both focussed on people wish disabilities?'
Our Blessed Lady, conceived without sin
is the principal patron of our diocese
On Thursday 25th March 1858, Our Lady revealed her name
to St Bernadette: 'I am the Immaculate Conception'.
St Bernadette tells of this encounter in these words: 'I went every day for a fortnight, and each day I asked her who she was – and this petition always made her smile. After the fortnight I asked her three times consecutively. She always smiled. At last I tried for the fourth time. She stopped smiling. With her arms down, she raised her eyes to heaven and then, folding her hands over her breast she said, 'I am the Immaculate Conception.' Then I went back to M. le Curé to tell him that she had said she was the Immaculate Conception, and he asked was I absolutely certain. I said yes, and so as not to forget the words, I had repeated them all the way home.'
Archbishop Peter is to lead our diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes in 2011 - from Friday, 19th August, until Friday, 26th August. He will soon be writing to parish priests asking them to warmly invite the people of the diocese to join him.
Please click on the logo -
or on the logo on the sidebar - to visit our Lourdes pages.
O Mary, conceived without sin
Pray for us who have recourse to thee
On Tuesday, 7th December 2010, Archbishop Peter and Canon James Cronin were entertained to lunch by the Mayor of Southwark, Cllr Tayo Situ.
(from left to right) Annie Sheppard (Chief Executive), Archbishop Peter,
the Mayor of Southwark - Cllr Tayo Situ, Council Leader Cllr Peter John
and Canon James Cronin
On Saturday, 4th December 2010, Cardinal John Patrick Foley, Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, presided at the Investiture of new knights during Mass at St George's Cathedral.
Among the new knights were Archbishop Peter, Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham and Bishop Ralph Heskett of Gibraltar.
During the ceremony, Deacon James Sheahan was awarded the Cross of Merit of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre.
A Mass of Thanksgiving for the ministry of Archbishop Faustino Sainz Muñoz as Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain was offered at Westminster Cathedral on Thursday, 2nd December 2010.
Archbishop Faustino has been Nuncio since 2004, but has been forced to resign through ill health. He is shortly to return to his native Spain to continue his treatment.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols was the principal celebrant and was joined by Cardinal Cormac, Archbishop Peter, Bishop Paul, Bishops Alan Hopes and George Stack, Auxiliary Bishops in Westminster and Bishop John Rawsthorne, Bishop of Hallam, who represented the bishops of the North, who were among those prevented from attending by the snow.
In his homily, Archbishop Vincent thanked Archbishop Faustino for his ministry and offered his heartfelt prayers for his recovery from ill health. 'We Bishops' said Archbishop Vincent, 'have grown to see him as a brother and we will certainly miss him very much.'
Cardinal Cormac with Archbishop Faustino during the Mass
We join Archbishop Vincent in offering our prayers for Archbishop Faustino's speedy return to complete health.