Tuesday, 24 March 2009

A Year of the Priest - 2009-2010

Pope Benedict has recently announced a 'Year of the Priest' to run from June 2009 to June 2010. The Pope made the announcement during an audience 16 March with members of the Vatican Congregation for Clergy.

In part it is to mark the 150th anniversary of the death of the French parish priest and saint, John Vianney, often known as the Cure D'Ars, who Benedict called "a true example of a pastor at the service of Christ's flock."

Priests must be, says the Pope "present, identifiable and recognisable - for their judgement of faith, personal virtues and attire - in the fields of culture and of charity which have always been at the heart of the Church's mission". He also reminded us that "The centrality of Christ leads to a correct valuation of priestly ministry, without which there would be no Eucharist, no mission, not even the Church."

Just as the on-going current Year of St Paul has enabled many people to think about and reevaluate his contribution to Christian life then maybe this Year of the Priest will enable the Church to reflect more deeply on the role of the priest in the Church and how priesthood functions within the whole community of the People of God.

The Pope will open the special year with a vespers service at the Vatican 19 June - the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the day for the sanctification of priests. He will close the celebrations during a World Meeting of Priests in St. Peter's Square June 19, 2010.

Please pray for the Priests in Arundel & Brighton Diocese.

'you are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchisedek'

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Communications in an Electronic Age

Most of this week at the Christian Education Centre in Crawley telephones, e-mail and internet has been patchy as we have been trying to sort out problems apparently caused by a power cut over the weekend. I am pleased to say that by 5.30pm on Wednesday all was sorted and is now all working again, hence this blog entry.

Some would suggest that we rely too much on electronic media to run our lives. There may be some truth in that but we are now part of a society that is thoroughly impregnated with an electronic DNA and as the Church we need to learn to exist and proclaim the Good News in that environment. Pope Benedict and the Vatican are learning about this, sometimes the hard way, but also positively by engaging with this electronic culture. We have seen the launch of Vatican YouTube (see left), daily Vatican News E-Bulletins and so on. Indeed the Pontifical Commission for Social Communications under its new head Archbishop Celli is now working on a new document, the first in nearly 20 years that will set out a vision for Christian communications in digital age. Indeed the latest message for World Communications Day on 31 May begins to address the issue of this new digital age and the communication of the same endless message of salvation through Jesus Christ but adapted to these new electronic media. The Church is waking up to this new age which we can see in the various Catholic information sources from Zenit's e-bulletins to various blogs, social networking sites for Catholics, internet Radio such as Vatican Radio and the new e-newsletter from our own Bishops' Conference. All of this is to be welcomed and we are encouraged to participate ourselves in this work so that it becomes imbued with the spirit of Jesus Christ.

To that end in the diocese we are organising a day for all those in working with the media either on a diocesan level or in their local area on Saturday 4th April at the Diocesan Offices in Crawley. We hope lay people and clergy will be able to attend and share ideas and information; And that we can continue the task of developing skills and abilities to speak the Gospel in our times. To book a place and for more information email ruth.gerun@dabnet.org

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

We've got one to spare!

Last week I was in Liverpool for a Communciation Officers Forum with various of the Communications Officers from around the dioceses of England & Wales. It was as ever good to met those doing similar work to myself, to share ideas and information and to be better informed on various issues. On the final day of meeting we finished at lunchtime and I had an opportunity to revisit Liverpool Catholic Cathedral (pictured right). It has now been restored following initial problems with the roof and other parts of the building. One of the most impressive additions since I last visited is the grand piazza and stairway in front of the Cathedral which really adds to appeal and feel of the building. Originally fairly bare inside apart from dramatic stained glass it now has various sculptures and hangings which add to the warmth and beauty of the interior. It is a very modern building but none the worse for that and I certainly felt it to be a prayerful and dramatic space where you can encounter the mystery of God.

Any Cathedral is ultimately important not as a building but as a place where the people of God in the diocese gather around their Bishop in celebration and worship. This was very true the first Sunday of Lent in Arundel Cathedral when over 50 Catechumens for baptism at Easter and over 200 Candidates for reception at Easter, the largest number on record, gathered with their sponsors and Bishop Kieran, and they were recognized by our Bishop as soon to be full members of the Church. It was a happy and joyful day as Arundel Cathedral (pictured above) was filled to bursting point.

We will also shortly gather around our Bishop again at the Chrism Mass, in our diocese on Wednesday of Holy Week, when the priests, deacons and laypeople of Arundel & Brighton gather to hear the priests renew their vows of ordination, the oils to be used for catechumens, baptisms, confirmations and the sick are blessed and distributed to the diocese and of course the Eucharist is celebrated with the Bishop presiding. This is when a Cathedral becomes truly alive and it matters not whether it is in the neo-Gothic splendour of Arundel Cathedral or the modernist drama of Liverpool Cathedral but rather that as the local Church in wherever we gather around our chief pastor, the Bishop, joined in unity with the Bishop of Rome as the body of Christ.

Jesus said 'No, anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant, and anyone who want to be first among you must be your slave.' (Mt 20:27)