Archbishop John Wilson has released a podcast ahead of Racial Justice Sunday which was kindly recorded by the Media Team at the Catholic Bishop's Conference of England and Wales. In this interview, he speaks of broadening our appreciation of different cultures and nationalities to achieve a true conversion of heart and mind, so that we can fully appreciate that all people are equally valued and that we are indeed 'One in Christ'.
Archbishop John Wilson's Message
This coming Sunday, we’re going to be celebrating Racial Justice Sunday in the Catholic Church across England and Wales.
We might ponder, why do we do this? And I think there are two very simple reasons. The first is that we want to celebrate the great richness of culture, nationality, language – the great diversity that makes up the Catholic Church. Catholic means universal. It’s a Church for all people, for all nations across the world.
In any Catholic Church, you’ll find people from different parts of the world, and it reflects to us the great tapestry of people, of nationalities – just that great sense that we are together as one in Christ. That beautiful mosaic requires everyone to be part of it, so we’re celebrating, principally, something wonderful about the rich diversity of our humanity that is reflected beautifully in the Catholic Church universally internationally, but also in our parishes here in England and Wales.
I think there’s a second reason to why we need to mark this day, and that’s because, although we’ve made incredible strides forward in how we overcome things like racism and injustice, there are still things that need to be addressed. I met recently with some young people, and they shared with me some of the difficulties they experienced today – not 20 years ago, 100 years ago, but today – they face discrimination because of their heritage and their culture.
It’s very important that we as a Church take this opportunity to affirm the dignity of every person, the place of every person in the life of the Church, and that there is no place for racism, there is no place for racial injustice. We must speak as one people with one voice because we are one in Christ.
One of the challenges for us is to think not just about the ‘heart’ in this question of appreciating people of different cultures and nationalities, but also to think about the ‘mind’. In a sense, we could say, “yeah, we’ve got to love everyone.” I mean, that’s true. It comes from the Gospel. It’s the commandment of the Lord Jesus. But we also need not just to broaden our hearts, to love, but we need to broaden our minds to understand and to recognise that in the cultures of others, in the languages and traditions of others, there is something enormously enriching for the whole of the world. What none of us should do, I think, is live with a very narrow focus, that the world is about ‘me’ and where I live, my town, my country – it’s not – the world is about all of us. We should actually broaden our minds through education, to learn about different traditions.
There are parishes in our Diocese where the beautiful richness of the liturgy also overflows into things outside of the liturgy. So you go to a celebration in South London, invariably the food will be international after the Mass. It raises the question… what is this about? How do we learn about someone else? How do we appreciate their culture so that our minds begin to change? Because unless we educate our minds, our hearts will never be really converted.
They need to be related – one to the other. A conversion of heart and a conversion of mind need to go together. So the need for us, whoever we are, whether we’ve got vast experience of the world or whether we’ve got a very small experience of the world, we need to realise that the world is always bigger than ‘me’ and the world always includes every other person. The more I learn about the world, the more I learn about others, the more capacity I have to love.
Pater Noster Church in Jersusalem: the Our Father in many languages on the wall
Photograph: Marcin Mazur
I think one of the most important remembrances I have of the Holy Land is to visit the Pater Noster Church and to see the ‘Our Father’ in so many different languages – all the languages of the world. So what a beautiful prayer to pray in preparation for Racial Justice Sunday – the Our Father. It’s the prayer that unites all of us, Our Father with our one God, whom we come to through Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. We have one Father. We are children of one Father. So in many languages, in many places, we can pray together as one the words of the Lord Jesus. Our Father, who art in heaven.
On Sunday 13 February 2022, the day we celebrate Racial Justice Sunday, there will be a special 10am Mass in Southwark’s St George’s Cathedral to join together to reflect on the importance of racial justice.
The Mass, the will be celebrated by Archbishop Wilson, with the theme ‘One in Christ’ to recognise the ethnic and cultural diversity of the Catholic community in Southwark and the south-east.