May 28, 2009

New Archbishop of Westminster calls for ‘respectful dialogue’

by David Masters

The Most Reverend Vincent Nichols yesterday urged Catholics to engage in “respectful dialogue”, in his sermon following his installation as the Archbishop of Westminster

The Archbishop addressed a 2,000-strong congregation, including 700 clergy, who attended to see him appointed as leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales.

The 63-year-old is the 11th holder of the office, and now leads an estimated 4.2 million Catholics in the two countries.

A letter from Pope Benedict was read out at the installation ceremony, affirming Archbishop Nichols as “well deserving” of his sacred role, “richly endowed” with “well-tested gifts of mind and heart”, and “abundantly skilled in pastoral affairs”.

“This dialogue needs to go beyond the superficial and the slogans,” he said in his sermon.

“Respectful dialogue is crucial today and I salute all who seek to engage in it.”

He added: “Let us be a society in which we genuinely listen to each other, in which sincere disagreement is not made out to be insult or harassment, in which reasoned principles are not construed as prejudice.”

The media has an important role in encourage this dialogue, the Archbishop said, “not by accentuating difference and conflict, but by enhancing creative conversation.”

Archbishop Nichols is appointed at a time when many Catholic’s see a rare opportunity to provide the nation with moral guidance amidst the backdrop of the financial crisis and the scandal over MPs’ expenses.

However, recent revelations of child abuse by the Catholic Church in Ireland have dampened this opportunity.

Before his installation, Archbishop Nichols praised the “courage” of the Christian Brothers and Sisters of Mercy, the perpetrators of the abuse, for facing up to their past.

“It is a tough road to take, to face up to our own weaknesses,” he said, speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live.

“That is certainly true of anyone who’s deceived themselves that all they’ve been doing is taking a bit of comfort from children.”

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