Saturday, 29 September 2012

Contraception and IVF: What’s the problem? What’s the alternative”

Day on Contraception and IVF on Saturday 6th October 11am to 3.45pm at Christ the Prince of Peace, Portmore Way, Weybridge KT13 8JD

In Humanae Vitae Pope Paul VI called the development of reliable, natural means to regulate family size. In response a method has been developed which, carefully implemented, allows couples to know with very high confidence if any given day is fertile. The insights offered by this research have also been successfully applied to treat infertility.

The Weybridge parish are offering related, evidence-based talks from two guest experts. These will review the impact of artificial contraception and explain and demonstrate the benefits of the family planning and help with infertility and recurrent miscarriage through natural methods.

Please bring a packed lunch.

For further information go to or contact Pauline Gately: 01932 852759 or

Friday, 28 September 2012

Successful Apple Day at St.Cuthman’s

Apple store at St.Cuthmans is now full!
Glorious sunshine and a lovely crowd of mainly first-time visitors and enthusiastic volunteers contributed to all the apples from the Edwardian orchard being picked, cut, juiced and stored, ready for guests to enjoy in the season to come. Visitors enjoyed tours of the retreat house and delighted in viewing part of the picturesque 20 acres of lakeside grounds. Prayers of thanksgiving in the beautiful chapel rounded off a memorable day.

If you weren’t able to share this day with us, you can always come and join in with the volunteer gardening days on 9 & 16 November 2012.

For more details of volunteer days, staying at St.Cuthmans or using our meeting facilities please call 01403 741220 or visit

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Fr Kevin Steen RIP

Fr Kevin at the Mass for Priestly Jubilees at Arundel in 2012
Please pray for the repose of the soul of Reverend Kevin Steen, Priest of the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton, who died in retirement on 21 September 2012.

The funeral arrangements are as follows: Wednesday, 10 October 2012 4 p.m. Reception of the Body and Vigil Mass at The Chapel,
St. Joseph’s Nursing Home, East Street, Littlehampton, BN17 6AU.

Thursday, 11 October 2012 12 noon Concelebrated Funeral Mass at St. Catherine’s, 44 Beach Road,
Littlehampton, BN17 5JH

May he rest in peace.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Catholic Scout Group Raises Thousands for New Scout Hall

Scouts at start of hike
Mike Phillipson Group Scout Leader reports:
"Six Explorer Scouts from 17th Reigate (St. Joseph’s) Scout Group in Redhill, Surrey have recently completed an arduous hike raising over £4,000 towards building a new Scout Hall. Matt Brown and Albert Phillipson (both 17 years old), together with Sam Holmes, Adam L’Estrange, Miles Baker, and Chris Marks (all 16 years old) walked 180Km in six days from Brownsea Island in Hampshire (the birthplace of Scouting) back to the site of the new Hall at St. Joseph’s Church Redhill. Carrying their rucksacks and sleeping in tents and other Scout Halls, the team had to endure blazing sunshine, heavy thunderstorms, painful blisters, aching shoulders, and the occasional snake (ok it was a slow-worm!).

This is the longest hike completed in the Group’s history and was conceived and planned by the Explorers after the proposal for the new hall was announced in January this year. Albert said “we’ve all been in 17th Reigate for a long time and saw this as a way of giving something back to the Group before we leave. There were times on the hike when morale was low, especially when the blisters were bad and we knew we still had a long way to walk. But we supported each other and made it through to our destination each day”.

Tony Brown, Explorer Scout Leader said that the Group is immensely proud of them: “this was a very tough challenge they set for themselves and there were times when they had to dig deep, but they all made it and the sense of achievement will stay with them for a long time”.

17th Reigate (St. Joseph’s) Scout Group is the largest youth-group in the Parish of the Nativity of the Lord in Redhill, Merstham, and Reigate and one of the very few Catholic Scout Groups in Surrey. The Group has around 120 young people between 6 and 18 years old, and is temporarily without a permanent home following the re-development of the old Parish hall. The Group is fund-raising towards a target of £150,000 to build a purpose-built Scout hall which will be its first permanent home in the Group’s 97-year history.

End of the Hike with Fr Chris Spain dishing out the grub
Further information is available on the Group’s website at and anyone wishing to contribute can do so via"

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Monastic Beer - A Gift of God

Monks working in the Brewery
Belgium Monasteries are especially famous for the beers they brew, but a new brewery has been started in the birthplace of St Benedict,the founder of Western Monasticism in Norcia in Italy. This new community which began the revival of monasticism in Norcia in 2000 have this year begun to produce Birra Nursia as part of their monastic work. They reflect on this on their brewery website:
"From ancient times, monks have understood that their vision of life must be shared with society by means of earthly experiences, otherwise it becomes closed off and isolated from the world.

In the course of monastic history, Benedictine monks have given witness to the presence of God in the world in many ways. First of all, through their daily rhythm of prayer, monks have sought to remind themselves and the entire world that the only way to true happiness must have the God of salvation at its center. A vision of the world without God will always leave us empty and incomplete.

But from ancient times, monks have understood that this vision of life must be shared with society by means of earthly experiences, otherwise it becomes closed off and isolated from the world. Monks have implemented this view in the liturgy, with the singing of Gregorian Chant, the use of incense, and the use of bells—things which involve all of man’s senses, as well as in the area of study, seeking to enlighten the farthest reaches of the human intellect, and finally in work aimed at bringing forth the fruits of the earth which nourish the human body. In all of these undertakings, monks have never ceased to sanctify material things in order to make them paths that lead to God."

We will all, surely, be happy to raise a glass of their beer to that!

Monday, 24 September 2012

A Religious Goodbye

Fr John Celebrating Mass in Thanksgiving
The Arundel & Brighton Diocese are grateful for the relgious communities who run parishes supporting our diocesan priests. The Pallotine Fathers run a parish in Hastings and Fr John O'Brien SCA has just left and a new parish priest Fr Seamus Stapleton SCA has just moved in. The parish had a celebration of thanks earlier in the summer for Fr John which you can read about below:
"Here at Hastings the parish-school community hosted a farewell party for Fr John O’Brien SCA on Saturday July 14. The party followed on from the Vigil Mass at which Fr Joseph Soosai Marian SCA and Fr Anthony Busuttil also concelebrated.

At St Mary Star of the Sea we have been very fortunate in having Fr John as our parish priest for over ten years. During that time, he has been a powerful support to the school and parish, steering us through the recent liturgical changes to the Mass with a distinctive blend of pragmatism, humour and humility that we’ve come to know and appreciate so well. Parishioners showed their appreciation and affection for Fr John by turning up to the party in their droves – the church hall was packed with well-wishers.

Amongst those paying special tribute were Mrs Angela O’Connor, former Head of Sacred Heart, who thanked Fr John for his unstinting support to the school and governors. John Hall, President of the SVP and long-standing parishioner, also gave a speech on behalf of the parish, acknowledging and thanking him for his energy, hard work and dedication. It hardly needs to be said that the parish are going to miss Fr John terribly, but wish him the very best for his new post as parish priest in Barking. "

Story and picture from Deborah Madden-Towsey

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Fabulous Flower Festival in Reigate

Carpet of Flowers in Holy Family Church, Reigate
This happened back in June, but thought that the beautiful carpet of flowers might inspire others to do likewise in future years:
Ann Lardeur reports - “WOW” was the word heard most often as people entered Holy Family Church, Reigate, and saw the magnificent carpet of flowers down the aisle, the centre piece of a magnificent flower festival for the last weekend in June. Designed by Michèle Damer and Linda Corcoran from the Reigate Flower Team, who also organised the festival, it was created from more than 300 boxes of plants and flowers grown by a local nursery. Chrysanthemums, carnations, roses and hydrangea heads created intricate patterns including the logo of the Parish of the Nativity of the Lord, Keys of St Peter and the Sword of St Paul celebrating the Feast of St Peter & St Paul on the 29th.

Floral arrangements interpreting hymns or biblical verses were made by flower ladies St. Teresa’s, Merstham and St. Joseph’s Rehill, and from Mill Church and St Mark’s Church in Reigate and Redhill United Reformed Church.

Fr Chris Spain said: “It was one of those heart-stopping moments because when you saw the carpet, it was breathtaking. It was a lovely atmosphere with people enjoying themselves and reflecting on the beauty of creation.” Michèle added “The festival was beyond our wildest expectations. The talent people have is fantastic and the view of the carpet from the organ loft is quite spectacular.

Lunches and cream teas were on offer too, and there were also recitals in the church performed by parishioners. There were in excess of 400 visitors, some coming several times to bring friends, and others travelling a fair distance to enjoy the experience.

Some £1,700 has been raised for the new parish centres at Redhill and Reigate, with donations still coming in.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Another Fairtrade Schools - St Peter's, East Grinstead

St Peter
Congratulations to St Peter's Catholic Primary School in East Grinstead for achieving Fairtrade status.  There are over 500 Fairtrade schools in the UK but St Peter’s is the first one in East Grinstead

In the past five years St Peter's has promoted Fairtrade goods within the school and wider community by participating in Fairtrade Fortnight, having Fairtrade assemblies, selling Fairtrade goods at school events, holding a monthly stall after school and learning about how farmers and producers in developing countries are paid a fair wage for what they produce. When trade prices fluctuate farmers are guaranteed a steady income. Furthermore, a small premium on Fairtrade goods means that the farming community as a whole benefits, funding the building of schools, medical centres etc.  

News about Fairtrade goods and activities are included in a termly publication “Eco-News”. Fairtrade bananas are provided for playtime snacks and the school uses Fairtrade tea and coffee in the staffroom and at school events.

The school's mission statement is “Treat others as you would like to be treated” and being a Fairtrade school is part and parcel of this important message.

To become a Fairtrade School you simply need to meet five goals which can be found at:  

Thursday, 20 September 2012

More Men Commit to Catholic Men's Society - Knights of St Columba

Seven New Knights with Fr Tony Churchill
Charles Yarham reports that:
This summer during Saturday evening Vigil Mass at Our Lady of Sorrows Church Bognor Regis seven new Knights of St Columba, a Catholic Mens Society were elevated to full Knighthood at a ceremony during the Mass. They are standing with Fr Tony Churchill who celebrated the Mass. He is the Parish Priest and Chaplain to the Bognor Regis Council of Knights. Six knights are from Bognor Regis with one from Brighton. This brings the total number of Knights in Bognor Regis to 38. The Knights do a lot of work for the Parish behind the scenes and are very grateful to Fr Tony for his excellent support.

The Knighthood ceremony was conducted by Fr Tony with the Deputy Provincial Grand Knight, John Dynes. Also present were the Grand Knights of Brighton, Paul Lowry, and Bognor Regis, Charles Yarham.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

St Pancras' Golden Jubilee of Consecration

Bishop, celebrants and servers outside the church
Bruce Bryne from Lewes reports on summer celebrations:
Bishop Kieran Conry attended to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Consecration of St Pancras Church also to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation upon three candidates from the Parish.

The Bishop who was welcomed by a large gathering, concelebrated Holy Mass with former Parish Priests of our Church including Canon Seamus Hester, Father Biggerstaff and assisted by current Parish Priest Father Jonathan Martin and Father Michel. St Stephen Guild alter servers led by Chris Johnston provided valuable support for all the clergy present.

To celebrate this memorable event two new chalices were commissioned and a special cake was prepared by Claire Humphrey. The Parish Choir led by Robert Smith and the Schola gave a delightful performance with outstanding music and hymns throughout.

During this special occasion, three young people from the Parish were confirmed by the Bishop after which everyone retired to the Parish Wood Room in the Cluny annex for canapes and drinks.

Celebration Cake
Photos by Mike Brian

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The Holy Redeemer, Hollington - Golden Jubilee

Altar at Holy Redeemer for Golden Jubilee

Early this summer Holy Redeemer, Hollington celebrated their Golden Anniversary. They have reported:
The Mass was celebrated by the Bishop Kieran Conry, Bishop of Arundel & Brighton, with several co-celebrants including the Dean of St. Leonards on Sea, the Rev. Paul Clarke, the current Parish Priest, Father Ian Byrnes, Father William Bradley a previous parish priest; and other attending Priests and Friars who have been connected with the Parish in the past.

Several honoured guests were invited and attended, including the Mayor, Councillor Alan Roberts, and also Councillor Jeremy Birch.

Following the celebration of the Mass, with hymns and part of the Liturgy being sung by the choir, and music beforehand being provided by the Youth Group, everyone was invited to attend a finger buffet in the Parish hall and adjoining marquee. The food was supplied by numerous volunteers from within the Parish, and our Community Development Team, led by Robbie Clark, ensured that a marvellous spread was available for all. A continuous slide show depicting many memorable photographs from over the years proved a great success, as did the Golden Jubilee commemoration booklet that had been created for the occasion.

An apostolic blessing was granted to us for this occasion, and will be hung in the Church. All those who attended were also invited to sign a special Attendance Book, and this will be kept for posterity.

To round off the celebrations, and in much more clement weather, a liturgy was held to Our Lady in the grounds of the Church.

We look forward to the continued growth in our Parish community and to assisting the wider community at large.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Pope to Middle Eastern Christians: "Do not be afraid. Respond with forgi...

Listen to Pope Benedict in the Greek-Melkite Catholic Basilica in Harissa, Lebanon during his historic visit to Lebanon over the weekend.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Confident in Faith - Bishop Kieran Conry on Home Mission Sunday

Bishop Kieran speaking about faith
© Mazur/
Home Mission Sunday is the day in the Church's calendar when the Catholic community in England and Wales is invited to pray for, celebrate and support the work of evangelisation in England and Wales.

It falls this year on 16 September and the theme is ‘Confident in Faith’. Home Mission Sunday 2012 is intimately connected to the opening of the Year of Faith which will commence just over three weeks after Home Mission Sunday on 11 October.

The Rt Rev Kieran Conry, Bishop of Arundel & Brighton and Chair of the Bishops' Conference Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis highlights the scriptural grounding to the day: 
"One of the purposes of the Year is to invite baptised Catholics to rediscover and be more confident in their faith. This is what St. Peter demonstrates so powerfully in the Gospel for Home Mission Sunday, proclaiming 'You are the Christ' Mark 8: 27-35. The more confidence we have in Jesus Christ as Our Lord and Saviour, the more ready and equipped we are to share the treasure of our Catholic Faith." 

To see Bishop Kieran speaking about Home Mission Sunday go to

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Paralympic Games and Abortion Laws

Stef Reid who won silver in Long Jump at the Paralympics
here speaking at Flame Youth Congress
© Mazur/

As the eyes of the world looked to Britain as host of the 14th Summer Paralympic Games, James Parker, the Catholic Coordinator of the 2012 Games and first ever lay Catholic chaplain to serve at the Paralympic Games, in interview with Vatican Radio, called for Christians and others who value human life to challenge leaders and politicians with renewed effort to change Britain’s “discriminatory and outdated abortion laws”.

As the Paralympic Games end, Parker spoke of his time working with the Games and directly with some of the athletes: “My own experience of the Paralympic Village, the heavily guarded home to all the athletes and officials alongside the Olympic Park, is that it is a sacred place.”

He spoke of how “the Village is strewn with wheelchairs, crutches, bodies of every shape, size, and so-called ‘disfigurement’ imaginable. And yet there is a stronger sense of community, and a vibrant tangible passion for life, that not even the greatest town or city could boast. The organising committee, LOCOG, has taken great care to provide an amazing ambience where people of every ability can live with ease.”

“The joy in the Village is palpable.” he said. “It is a place where everyone is celebrated and honoured whether a medallist or not, and each person is in service of their neighbour. I am constantly reminded of the words of St Lawrence when, in the year 258, he was commanded by the Emperor Valerian to bring to him the Church’s treasury. Days later he brought before the Emperor the poor, crippled, and maimed and stated: “Behold the jewels of the Church!” He was then martyred for such a simple action.”

Speaking about the lead up the Games, Parker mentioned that “we see the word ‘Superhumans’ on our billboards and yet Paralympians are no different to any other human being. They often have greater degrees of adversity to overcome but this is an aspect of any life that truly wishes to be lived to the full.

“What is astounding is that Britain is enabling the eyes of the world to be opened to the giftedness and potential of those with disabilities through its hosting of the Paralympic Games. However, its own laws vehemently and shockingly discriminate against any new life in the womb that might possibly be affected by a physical handicap, genetic problems or a mental defect.

In conversations with a number of Paralympians in recent days he was astonished to discover that “many of them don’t even realise that, should their team mates have been conceived in Britain today, they would most likely be aborted. If Britain wishes to retain its place towards the head of the medals table at future Paralympic Games in decades to come then it needs to seriously consider changing its laws to stop discriminating against what is presently termed as an ‘unacceptable quality of life’. Games aside, any society that wishes to be healthy needs to increasingly value disability and non-disability equally.

“The Christian community needs as a whole, along with others who share our beliefs on the dignity of human life, to continue to take the lead and work towards changing Britain’s discriminatory and outdated abortion laws. If this issue is not addressed as we wave goodbye to the Paralympic Games from our shores, then it is hard to imagine when another opportunity of this sort will pass our way when British society and the world as a whole is celebrating the incredulous achievements of those with disabilities.

“Imagine how much lesser of a nation we would be without the lives of athletes like Ellie Simmonds, and how much greater a Britain we could be if more ‘disabled’ people of her ability were to be born, affirmed and celebrated.”

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Diocesan Jubilee Programme Continues

The Jubilee Small Group Training is about to begin (see below) and one parish has organised a talk by Canon Alan Griffiths on 'What Did Vatican II Really Say about Liturgy?' today Wednesday 12th September 8.00pm at St Dunstan’s Church, Shaftesbury Road,Woking GU22 7DT

Below are the details of the Jubilee Small GroupLeaders Training:
Thursday 13th September, 7.30pm at Christ the King, 3 Princes Road, Langney, Eastbourne BN23 6HT
Monday 17th September, 7.30pm at Our Lady Star of the Sea, Portslade BN41 1LB
Thursday 20th September, 7.30pm at St Michael's, The Marld, Ashtead KT21 1RS
Thursday, 27th September, 7.30 pm at The Sacred Heart, 37 Whyteleafe Road, Caterham, CR3 5EG
Saturday, 29th September, 10.30 am at St John’s, Springfield Road, Horsham, RH12 2PJ
Tuesday, 2nd October, 7.30 pm at St Dunstan’s, Shaftesbury Rd,
Woking, GU22 7DT
Saturday, 6th October, 10.00 am at St Bernadette’s, Tilgate Way,
Crawley, RH10 5BS

To book your place click here.
For more information contact David Wills on 01293 651157 or email:

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Priestly Moves Begin

Fr Kevin Gaskin steaming into retirement
September sees the movement of priests either into new parishes, new jobs or retirement. Moves announced thus far are below:

Newly ordained Fr Chris Dobson has been appointed to the parish of Crawley.

Newly ordained Fr Alan Sharpe will work with the team in Guildford.

Fr David Maskell is to move to Henfield from Egham.

Fr Hugh Flower will take over the parish of Egham moving from Fetcham.

Fr John Inglis will take over care of both Effingham and Fetcham.

Canon Kieron O’Brien will take over St Joseph’s, Brighton.

Fr Paul Turner will become Parish Priest of Chichester.

Fr Andrew Moss will assist Fr Paul Turner in Chichester.

Fr Tony Collins will return to Keymer.

Fr Kevin Gaskin reitres from Wadhurst (see picture) and will reside in East Grinstead.

Fr. Martin Connor a former missionary priest is to take over in Wadhurst.

Fr Richie Brennan leaves Newhaven and heads into a well-deserved retirement after his service to the diocese after many years on the missions.

Fr Tom Ryan, a brother Kiltegan to Fr Richie, leaves Peacehaven, but is to continue working as Spiritual Director at Wonersh.

Fr Kevin O’Donnell will take over both Peacehaven and Newhaven.

Mgr. Jeff Scott is stepping down as parish priest in Knaphill.

Fr. Alexander Lucie-Smith is move to Knaphill.

Fr. Peter Johnstone retires from Petworth and will live now in Chichester.

Fr. Peter Newsam will take over Petworth alongside Midhurst.

Fr Seamus Stapleton is the parish priest of Hastings

Fr Jonathan How returns from sabbatical to Wonersh as Academic Tutor

Monday, 10 September 2012

Walking to Rome!

Tom in the mountains enroute
Tom Hagger of Seaford Catenian Circle is undertaking an arduous but circuitous walk of some 2,000 miles from Seaford in Sussex to Rome. A parishioner of St Thomas More in Seaford he started from there (in the rain) on Tuesday 3rd July, walking the first four miles to Newhaven on the first leg of his walk to cross the Channel to Dieppe. From where his total walk will take four months to complete and he aims to arrive in Rome on All Saint’s Day, 1st November.

His route is not a direct one. On the way he will be crossing the High Alps close to the Italian border, walking the Mediterranean coast from Monaco to Genoa, northwards again to Lake Garda, across to Venice, then eventually down to Rome. Among the key points on his route will be Lisieux, Chartres, Orléans, Vezelay, Taizé, Cluny, Annecy, Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, Monaco, Genoa, Cremona, Padua, Venice, Ravenna, Florence, Siena and Assisi.

Tom says on his fundraising website "So far, I have walked 1,009 of the estimated 2,000 miles, visiting Lisieux, Chartres, Orléans, Vezelay, Taizé, Cluny, Annecy, La Salette, Nice and Monaco. Future key points on my route include Genoa, Cremona, Padua, Venice, Ravenna, Florence, Siena and Assisi. I aim to arrive in Rome on All Saints Day, Thursday 1st November. I am sure it will be cooler by then: recently, it has been up to 39˚c"

Tom started his career as a Metropolitan Police officer and broke his neck during a demonstration. This eventually led to an early ill-health retirement whereupon he retrained as a teacher and taught English for 12 years at Claverham Community College in Battle, East Sussex. Tom and his wife Denise have lived in Seaford for 15 years. He has a life-long interest in music and as a member of St Thomas More’s Church in Seaford took over as choir master and organist, and now runs the choir independently for charity fund raising.

Between leaving the police and starting teaching he undertook a five month walk from London to Athens in Greece, covering 3,000 miles. But he says that, 15 years older, his 50 lbs. rucksack will take some time getting used to. Tom is carrying his own camping gear but intends to find a hotel at least once a week for a long hot soak and a comfy bed. There will be one break in his walk when he will be flying back to England for his son’s wedding before resuming his trek.

He is raising funds for the Multiple Sclerosis Society, which relies on voluntary income to provide vital services to those affected by multiple sclerosis. His youngest sister, Eileen, died three years ago after suffering from MS for thirty years. She bore the disease with courage and good humour, with the outstanding help of her husband, Allen, and their three children, and with the support and advice of the MS Society. If anyone would like to sponsor Tom please log onto his page on the link:

Saturday, 8 September 2012

How can I find a spiritual director?

The Diocese of Arundel and Brighton have a Spirituality Network with a number of trained and experienced spiritual directors; lay, religious and ordained. They are available to accompany people on their faith journey. A financial contribution for sessions, if required, is negotiable.

If you would like more information on spiritual guidance, or the Network, please contact one of the members below, who would be happy to speak with you about what might be helpful for you. For more information click here...
Teresa Brooks 01483 481245

Jackie Foster 01932 864249

Caroline King 01372 277140

Priest Adviser: Fr. Raglan Hay-Will 01323 723222

Friday, 7 September 2012

Back to School

Most of our Catholic Schools are now back business. We wish all students the best of luck in the coming year, especially those preparing from exams.

Catholic School Students
The picture shows staff and students from St John the Baptist Catholic School (SJB) in Woking who last year put ‘Faith into Action’ when SJB students decided to adopt the ‘Friends of Chernobyl’s Children’ and fundraise for them vigorously, as part of our annual Lenten Fundraising, both at school and out of school.

As a result of the generosity of the entire school community and particularly our students in raising £ 13,500 over just 5 weeks in Lent, we have been able to support 6 out of the 12 children who come over to the UK from Mogilev, Belarus each year. This is a trip that increases their life span quite substantially given they are able to breathe cleaner air in our environment than the atmosphere they have to live with following the Chernobyl reactor disaster.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Parable of the Talents in Horsham

The Three Talents
 Deebie Bovey from St John's, Horsham reports:
Three boys from St John the Evangelist school in Horsham took part in the Year 5 and 6 challenge to utilise two talents (£2) to grow it as much as possible and to donate the proceeds to charity. The boys helped bake cakes with their families and packaged them up to sell for their chosen charity CAFOD.

They made T shirts at home using the CAFOD website as a guide for the logo. A stall was run at St John's in Horsham after their 9.00am Mass and then at Our Lady of Consolation and St Francis in West Grinstead after their 10.30am Mass. The boys pictured at West Grinstead from left to right are Ben, Matthew and Alfie. A total of £125.75 was raised for CAFOD - a better return than the parable.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Interview with Cardinal Cormac - Part 2

Cardinal Cormac

In this second part of an exclusive interview with Cardinal Cormac, Peter Burholt, is in conversation with him about his life in retirement. He achieved a significant milestone on 24 August when he celebrated his 80th birthday.

The interview starts where Part1 concluded, leaving the momentous question unanswered about his intention to retire from office.

Next came a life-changing moment for you. On 3 April 2009 you put in your request to retire as the Archbishop of Westminster. This was the first time in Church history since the Reformation that a person had retired ‘in post’. There were many stories swirling around the Press, but why was this decision made?

Every Bishop is required to submit his resignation to the Holy Father at the age of 75.  This rule came in at the Second Vatican Council and normally the Pope accepts the resignation.

Pope Benedict did not accept your request to retire. Instead, he asked you to stay in office ‘until he chooses otherwise’. Did your request affect your relationship with him and was he irritated with you?

Goodness me no! I did, in fact, stay a further 18 months in post until a successor was found.

At a lecture after Archbishop Vincent Nichols’ installation you urged Christians to treat atheists and agnostics with deep esteem. However, later you are quoted as saying that a lack of Faith is the ‘greatest of all evils’. You blamed atheism for war and destruction, and implied it was a greater evil than sin itself.

Is this a contradiction, or were you misquoted?

At this point Cardinal Cormac got up and went to his adjacent study. Perhaps this was an abrupt end to our interview? However, after a few minutes he returned with two books.

Yes, I was misquoted – it was out of context. To get the full meaning of what I said, I would encourage the readers of the A&B News to study the books I have assembled ‘Faith in Britain’ and ‘Faith in Europe’.

It was time to move onto another milestone in Cardinal Cormac’s life.

The Daily Telegraph ran a headline on 6 December 2009 ‘Cardinal Cormac turns down peerage following Catholic row’. Did this indicate turmoil behind the scenes?

It was Gordon Brown who had made the offer of a peerage – I liked some of his policies, such as his attitude to aid for third world countries. It was his vision to have representatives of the main Faiths in the Upper House.

Naturally the Bishops of England and Wales and the Secretary of State were consulted on this important matter.  Eventually, for good reasons, it was decided not to accept the offer and I wrote accordingly to the then Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.

Were you disappointed at this decision?

Not really.  After consideration of the matter it seemed to me that I would be involved in matters that were beyond my brief and might have caused me some hassle and difficulty.

Talking of looking back and of Prime Minsters, in 2006 you took Tony Blair to task on the question of AIDS and, again, in 2007 you expressed contrary views on gay adoption. You have also been quite clear on your views concerning the invasion of Iraq and the state of society in general – all of which went against the official government ‘line’.

As has been well documented, Tony Blair became a Catholic. Did you support his conversation to our Faith?

I used to see him at such places as Chequers and, generally, he believed in the Catholic teachings. While at that time he did go against what I was saying, he has since retracted many of his statements.

I received him into the Church and he expressed his belief in everything that the Catholic Church teaches.  Occasionally he has had to make corrections, but I believe he is a very sincere and practising Catholic.

I know he has had a hard time with some of the decisions he has made, but I think he is decent sort of person – he used to go unnoticed to Mass for many years, often on his own and without Cherie. When we meet he wants to talk mostly about theology.

You now have a title of ‘Emeritus Archbishop of Westminster’. What does that entail?

It is an honorary title given to a Bishop who has retired from office but who is still entitled to respect as a Bishop.  It makes it clear that he is now retired from office.

Pope Benedict’s visit in September 2010 hit the headlines. Were you involved?

Others had the responsibility of organising the visit, although I was with him all the time in what was called his personal suite. I greatly enjoyed this historic occasion and the Queen gave him a very warm welcome in Scotland at the start of his visit.

We all have personal memories of the Pope’s visit. What were your ‘golden moments’?

Golden moments – yes, there were many. There was the beatification of Cardinal Newman at Cofton Park in Birmingham on 19 September. You may remember I mentioned Pope John Paul’s remarks earlier in our conversation on the inability of the English to produce miracles, but we got there in the end!

Then there was the visit to St Mary’s University College in Twickenham with the youth and what I have labelled as the ‘three Westminsters’ – the Hall, the Abbey and the Cathedral. All these occasions were unforgettable. The Pope’s speech to both Houses of Parliament in Westminster Hall was absolutely brilliant.

But, I must confess to being glad to have a rest after his departure. It was very tiring!

Do you still play the piano?

No, not a lot, although the editor of The Guardian did invite me to play at the new Kings Hall London 18 months ago to celebrate Schubert’s 200th anniversary. I must confess his compositions are not the easiest to play.

Last year on 16 June, instead of listening to the radio, you went on the Chris Evans Breakfast Show. What was the experience like and did you try to convert him to Catholicism?

I found him very easy indeed and we talked about everything. No, I didn’t try to convert him – maybe the next time.

In the broadcast, your ‘Thought for the Day’ extolled listeners to ‘live life to the full and trust in God, that he will guide and sustain us’. Is this how you lead your life and have you always trusted in God, without question?

Yes, I do try to follow this example. I have never lost my Faith, even in what I might regard as the dark days. I have to say that I have had great happiness in living within the life of Christ.

You may find what I am about to say rather strange on this topic. However, when I attend the funerals of fellow priests, I am struck by the way in which people suddenly find out what good they have done in the support of others and the great out pouring of love that happens on these occasions. It is the love of Christ which keeps us going.

You had a front row seat at St Paul’s Cathedral for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee thanksgiving service. The TV broadcast made you appear a very prominent guest.

It was good to be seated next to my fellow cardinal, Keith O’Brien, and I was just very glad and honoured to be present.

Looking around this room there is no evidence of carpet slippers on the hearth or a pipe rack to be seen anywhere. How do you spend your time in retirement?

The prospect of a slipper-wearing and pipe-smoking Cardinal Cormac brought a smile to his face.

Well, I now have proper time to prepare talks and homilies – in fact, on this latter subject I find that I am much more careful than I used to be, and I am glad to be able to preach every Sunday in the local parish here in Chiswick.

I do have some semi-official tasks, such as organising the memorial service for Norman St John Stevas. I also like to go on retreats and I still play golf – badly! Responsibilities in Rome are gradually fading away.

By anyone’s standards you have had, and continue to have a full and eventful life - no doubt with its fair share of ups and downs. Do you ever look back over your 56 years as a priest and think that, not being married, you have been missing out in sharing these moments?

You must realise that I freely chose the life of celibacy, which is my fulfilment. I do not think I have missed out – if I have, it is my sacrifice.

Then there was a slight pause in the conversation when he considered the rest of his reply. 

My family makes up for a lot. Did you know that I have 20 great grand nephews and grand nieces? However, don’t ask me the names of all of them!

What makes you sad?

The break-up of marriages and the subsequent unhappiness of the children make me sad.

What gives you pleasure?

I do enjoy engaging with people and entertaining. Writing my life story? Maybe sometime in the future, when I have time.

If you had been a few years younger, would you like to have put yourself forward as being the next pope?

Would you be surprised to know this humble man answered the question with an emphatic ‘No’!

How would you like to be remembered?

After a reflective pause, he gently replied……

As a good shepherd.

What an appropriate note to end this conversation with Cardinal Cormac. We said our ‘good byes’, but not before a few still moments were spent in his private chapel.

None of us know how history will record our life on this earth, but we can be sure that the Diocese of Arundel & Brighton has been blessed by the presence of this significant priest and man of the people. Thanks be to God!

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Interview with Cardinal Cormac - Part 1

Cardinal Cormac preaching at the grotto in Lourdes

In this first part of an exclusive interview with Cardinal Cormac,  Peter Burholt, is in conversation with him on life at Westminster.

The afternoon was sunny and a tree-lined Duke’s Avenue in Chiswick was looking at its best. Finding Number 7 was not too difficult – this renovated Victorian detached house was every bit the residence of an important person. Which member of staff would answer the door bell? Would they be in uniform? No such formality – it was Cardinal Cormac himself. With a cheery smile and outstretched hand it was ‘You’re welcome’ and then we were inside, settling down to Sister Damian’s mugs of tea and cake.

Let’s go back to 15 February 2000, when you were informed you were to become the 10th Archbishop of Westminster. Did Pope John Paul II send you a letter or a text, or how did it happen?

Easing back in his chair, Cardinal Cormac reflected for a while on that life-changing event 12 years ago.

The circumstances were really a little strange. There had been an article in The Sunday Times in the previous week, saying that I was the front-runner for the post. Then, the day before I officially knew, a concerned Mgr Conry (now your Bishop, but then Director of the Catholic Media Office) rang me to ask if the story was true, as his office was being badgered by the Press for information. ‘No, I do not know what is going on’ was my honest reply.

Then, the next day, the Papal Nuncio asked me to go and see him without delay. Even at that point I was unaware of what was to come. In fact, I wondered what I had done wrong!

So, as instructed, I took myself to Wimbledon. In broken English he said, ‘The story is out. His Holiness wants you to be the next Archbishop of Westminster.’ What will make you smile is that, as his accent was extremely heavy, I left wondering or not if I was to be the next archbishop and had I heard the right message!

You were installed at Westminster Cathedral on 22 March 2000. What did you do in between being told and your actual installation? Was it a question of getting a quick holiday via

Goodness me no! It was quite the opposite. I spent the time fulfilling my duties in A&B and then attending to my move and the arrangements for the installation. Yes, I was sad to leave the Diocese I had come to love and then there was my dog, Daniel, whom I also had to leave - but I could not imagine seeing the next Archbishop walking his dog around the streets of Westminster.

Did you encounter any problems with the move?

I do remember one particular issue and that was to do with my support team in Westminster. I learnt that the nuns, who had so competently supported my predecessor Cardinal Hume, were leaving. This left me with a problem, but I was fortunate to meet Sr. Mary Thomas, Superior of the Augustinian Sisters at St. George’s Retreat and asked her if she would help me and she very kindly provided three Sisters to work with me at Archbishop’s House.  I was very blessed with marvellous help. 

Sister Damian, who you have just met, is a Sister of Mercy from Midhurst. She has put up with me since my early days in A&B and again I have been very fortunate to have such a wonderful secretary for very many years.

Was it straight to Rome after the announcement? Did the Vatican give you the ‘Good Archbishop’s Guide’ and send you to its training school?

As the memories came flooding back, a wry smile came across the Cardinal’s face and his response was positive.

Absolutely none of those! It was in at the deep end, sink or swim.

Being archbishop is quite different to the role I had played as bishop. You will need to understand that I was now President of the Bishops’ Conference and now had to comment in the media on so many matters.. In an instance, I was propelled in front of the media to be spokes-person on all matters Catholic. Fortunately, I remembered many aspects of Cardinal Hume’s life and then I put my own team in place. In these early days, people were very helpful and tolerant at Archbishop’s House.

From the start, to put it mildly, the Press gave you a rough ride. Did you expect this to happen?

You are quite correct. I did have a battering for the first six months. I must admit that I had made mistakes in the past – don’t we all? The Press picked these up, now that my profile had quickly accelerated into national public life. It was not a good time for me, but with support from colleagues, this period passed and we all learnt from the experience.

In your first year you were awarded a Doctorate of Divinity by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey. How important was this to you?

Yes, this was very important to me as it was in recognition of my involvement in Christian unity. The Vatican Council had allowed us to open up dialogues which were never previously approved of – we were able to try and understand other Faiths. I became the joint chairman of ARCIC, a committee to study matters of common interest to Anglicans and Catholics.

You were elected an Honorary Bencher of the Inner Temple and in August 2001 you received the Freedom of the City of London. Do these ‘non-Catholic’ positions cause you any conflicts with your Faith?

No, they do not – it is very nice to have these accolades and I do know that now I am a Freeman I can drive my sheep freely across London Bridge into the City!

In complete contrast, in 2001 an independent review, which you had instigated in the previous year, issued its final report on child protection in the Catholic Church.

The Nolan Review was a very comprehensive piece of work and I made sure that the panel was made up by people who were not necessarily Catholic. I asked Lord Nolan to carry out the review in 6 months, a short time for such an important subject – I wanted to see a quick result to this sensitive issue.

Lord Nolan addressed the bishops of England and Wales and his strong recommendations for the Safeguarding of children were accepted unanimously by all our bishops.

This was an important stage in our development and it set out the way in which we would protect children and vulnerable adults. We are now seen as being leaders on this subject and I even had congratulations from the Vatican on the work we had undertaken.

You have the reputation among the hierarchy of the Church of England as being an excellent host and that you can mix a mean cocktail.

I do like being a host, although I’m not sure about the cocktail story. On reflection, this may be a relic from my time at the English College in Rome, where I learnt the recipe of a particularly strong concoction!

On 20 February 2001 you were created a member of the College of Cardinals by Pope John Paul II. What is the size of the College membership? Can you vote for the election of a new pope after the age of 80 years?

I did feel privileged to become a cardinal and join this august group from around the world.

The College consists of up to 160 cardinals. Only members under the age of 80 can vote, although cardinals above that age can still join in the debate before the actual Conclave.

Although the ratio of Italian cardinals in the College has dropped from 56% in 1903 to under 17% today, did you feel like a fish out of water when you first joined?

I did know quite a few of the cardinals already, although I have one vivid memory of the occasion. Immediately I was elected a cardinal I was taken to the Vatican, where I sat in a large room and all the visitors came up to kiss my ring and have my blessing. This was a very humbling and memorable occasion. They made me feel very welcome.

At this time you were assigned the titular church of the Basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. What was that all about? Didn’t the Pope know that you had another place to look after back home?

This is a historical and symbolic appointment. All cardinals are assigned a church in Rome because, from the earliest days of the Church, the priests of Rome chose the pope.

I do make visits occasionally to this beautiful church and, shortly, I will be at Vespers with the Westminster choir. I think his Holiness was well aware of my other duties back home!

Has your membership of the Pontifical Council for Culture heightened your interest in history and art?

I have always had a great interest in art and music through my family, so this appointment was a natural extension to the things I have always appreciated. The Council has a lot to do with how we engage in culture.

You asked about my earlier life with respect to the arts and history. My mother was the one who encouraged me and my 3 brothers. However, I can remember my mother insisting that we speak French at the dinner table. My brothers and I struggled, and we normally ended up in much laughter.

As a cardinal do you have celebrity status wherever you go?

I did get treated as a celebrity at airports, so I sympathise with all those passengers who have to queue endlessly at passport control. Apart from the formal occasions, there is not much else.

Have you ever been into (what was called during your time in office) the Cardinal Wolsey pub behind Westminster Cathedral, in the hope you might get a complimentary pint?

I did go in once, but no one made the offer!

 The year 2002 was quite a ‘royal’ 12 months for you. The Queen invited you to Sandringham to give the first homily to an English monarch since 1680. Given it was 322 years since the monarchy issued the last invite, were you nervous at the prospect?

Cardinal Cormac stopped at this point to reflect on one significant aspect of this question.

Goodness me, was that so. I never realised at the time that the last invitation was so long ago!

Yes, I remember being quite nervous. My homily was about the Annunciation, which I related to Christianity and to service of others.  I could see Prince Phillip, but the Queen was behind me, so I could not gauge her reaction.

What was it like being a house guest at Sandringham?

I stayed for 2 nights and the atmosphere was quite informal. There were 3 other house guests.  I remember coming into the room and seeing Her Majesty doing a jigsaw puzzle – quite a natural sight.  We were ushered upstairs to dress for dinner. We then had a round of pre-dinner drinks, which I think was champagne.

The next day after the service we all had a long walk, ending with lunch in a large house somewhere on the estate. I enjoyed the informality of that walk. Then the same dinner routine was repeated that evening.

On this visit to Sandringham I suggested to the Queen that she should go to Ireland. As you know, this visit became a great success and I was glad I was able to write and congratulate her.  The Queen wrote me a very gracious letter in reply.

The Queen has referred to you as ‘our cardinal’. How did that come about?

I think this is an accolade she had also given to my predecessor. However, I do get on well with her and Prince Philip. She came to lunch at Archbishop’s House a fortnight before I left office.

Recently, I stood in for Archbishop Nichols at a gathering organised by the Queen for all religious leaders, so I do see her every so often.

In the same year you were the first cardinal to read prayers at an English Royal Funeral service since 1509 – it was for the Queen Mother. Did you know her?

Yes, I first met her at dinner in Arundel Castle and then we met on several occasions after that. She was good fun and I remember one dinner which ended with some rousing songs!

Turning to Pope John Paul’s last days, did you get to see him before he went to the Lord?

At my last audience with the Holy Father he was very unwell and in a wheelchair. We talked about Cardinal Newman and I enquired as to why he had not been beatified. The Pope’s response was typical of the man. With a grin he said ‘You English are not good at miracles’.

Still, time has gone by and the beatification has been accomplished.

What happened on the occasion of the Pope’s funeral?

As soon as I heard the news it was Mass at Westminster Cathedral and I then had to get to Rome as quickly as possible.

The Conclave was momentous – there was the funeral itself and endless lunches and dinners, where the debate about the election of the future pope informally started. It was attended by 115 cardinals. Everything was run by ballot – even the rooms we had in the Vatican were allocated by ballot.

Although it took us 2 days to elect Pope Benedict, there is no time limit. Absolutely no one knows who has voted for which candidate, although when the shortlist is published after the first round the names are known by the Electors.  We all trust each other that we will not vote for ourselves! No electronics, it is all by a paper vote.

Reporter Andrew Brown asked if you had NOT voted for Pope Benedict. You appeared to be rather bristly on this subject.

Even if I wanted to, I am not allowed to tell anyone how I voted. Pope Benedict and I go back many years, so I knew him quite well.

Next came a significant moment in your life. On 3 April 2009 you announced your intention to retire as Archbishop of Westminster. This was the first time in Church history since the Reformation that a cardinal had retired ‘in post’. What surrounded this significant event?

More to come in a further blog post