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Saturday, 16 March 2013

Bishop Davies calls for loyalty to the Holy Father

I was thinking of writing something about our duty as Catholics to be loyal to the Pope. I am grateful that Bishop Mark Davies has saved me the trouble by writing a fine pastoral letter on the theme, calling inter alia for prayer and penance::

Pastoral Letter
To be read at Mass in all the churches and chapels of the Diocese
on the Fifth Sunday of Lent, 16th / 17th March 2013

My dear brothers and sisters,

“I announce a great joy to you: we have a Pope!” This announcement first made from the balcony of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome has echoed across the world. I write this Sunday to share with you the joy of welcoming Pope Francis as St Peter’s Successor, as Bishop of Rome and so as our Pope. During the past two weeks the Chair of St Peter has stood empty and the Pope’s name has poignantly been absent from the Eucharistic Prayer at Mass. We have felt this absence and today share a great joy that in Pope Francis we once more have a Holy Father, a successor in our time of the Apostle Peter. “To this day,” the Youth Catechism explains, “every Bishop of Rome has been, like Peter, the supreme shepherd of the Church, whose real head is Christ” (YouCat 141).

In these past few days you may have heard many commentators telling us what a new Pope should be like and what he should do. However, no ‘job description’ for a Pope is ever required, as every Pope is called to continue the supreme, pastoral ministry which Christ the Lord entrusted to Peter. Our Lord called Peter to be the “rock” on which his Church would be built; entrusted him with the keys of His Kingdom; and made him shepherd of the whole flock, calling him to confirm us in the faith (Mt 16:18; Jn 21:15-17; Lk 22:32). We place our faith in the promises of Christ, not confusing the giftedness of the man with the promises attached to the office of Peter. We know the Petrine ministry will continue in the Church until the end of time with one Pope following another. More than once during my own journey around the Diocese I have been introduced as ‘Bishop Brian’, my own predecessor and our Emeritus Bishop. It serves as a wonderful reminder that it does not matter who the bishop is, so long as he is your bishop!

Our Catholic faith leads us to recognise and promise today, as I promised on the day I became a bishop, to be faithful, obedient and united under the authority of the Successor of the Apostle Peter (Rite for the Ordination of Bishops). In the Catholic heart, there is not only a recognition of the vital ministry of the Pope, but a love for the Pope. The Acts of the Apostles tells how the Church at the beginning prayed unceasingly to God for Peter (Acts 12:5).

This Sunday, conscious of the awesome responsibility Pope Francis has accepted, we pray very much for the man called to take the place of Peter in our time. On Wednesday 20th March I would ask every parish and community in the Diocese to join me in prayer and to offer Mass for the Holy Father. I also invite you to offer some small sacrifice, some act of self-denial for our Holy Father and for the mission now entrusted to him.

It is significant that the announcement that we have a new Pope should be made from Vatican Hill where St Peter’s mortal remains were buried following his martyrdom. Amid testing times, the Pope must always be ready to face a form of martyrdom. The Pope is neither a politician nor a celebrity, but always a witness to the Truth, to the One who was crucified, to the faith handed down by the Apostles. The word ‘martyr’ means ‘witness’ and describes those who suffer and die for Christ. In these hopeful and challenging days, when the Church sees a great expansion of her life on a global scale, with more Catholics and more vocations than at any moment in her history, together with the sad phenomenon of the de-Christianisation of societies like our own, much is asked of the Pope.

This moment surely invites us to renew personally our loyalty to the Pope chosen to guide the Church in these testing times. In the faithful witness Pope Francis will give, often in the face of opposition, may you and I always stand steadfastly and courageously with St Peter’s Successor. I ask you to renew this promise with me today. I am certain there can be no progress for the Church in the Shrewsbury Diocese without this living, faithful, loving unity with the See of St Peter, with our Holy Father, Pope Francis.

May God bless our Pope and renew this love and unity in all our hearts,

+ Mark
Bishop of Shrewsbury
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