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Diocese of Arundel and Brighton Article

Pastoral Message, Pentecost 1996


to be read at all Masses ON THE FEAST OF PENTECOST, 1996 

My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, 

The other day I was re-reading some of the pastoral letters I have written and I was particularly struck by the first pastoral letter that I wrote to you as Bishop of Arundel and Brighton - that was over eighteen years ago - what a long time! In that first pastoral letter I talked about the ways in which we build up the Church so that it becomes a sign of God's presence in the world, a sign that speaks of life and hope to the society in which we live. In particular, I spoke about liturgy, about our life of prayer, because that is at the very source of our Christian life. I then spoke about deepening our understanding of being a 'community' or a 'family'. We belong to the Catholic Church and that sense of community, whether experienced in the parish or in smaller communities or as part of the world-wide Church, is something very powerful and extremely important. I then stressed the way in which all of us must work together, bishop, priests, lay people. It is together that we undertake the wonderful task of building up the Church in prayer, liturgy, community and service. In this way, the Church really does become a sign to the world of hope, of truth and love. We should never doubt that. 

In today's second reading St. Paul tells us that "there is a variety of gifts in the Church, but always the same Spirit. There are all sorts of service to be done, but always to the same Lord, working in all sorts of different ways and different people, it is the same God who is working in all of them. The particular way in which the Spirit is given to each person is for a good purpose". Again and again, St. Paul speaks of the family of the Church as of a group of people, a community who are working together; all having different gifts given by the same Spirit, all working together for a good purpose. In our Diocesan Vision Statement this focuses on our efforts to be Christ in our world. The Church is there described not only as a 'community of love' but also as 'partners in service'. It seems to me that in our parishes we need to recognise each other's gifts and share them and understand that in different ways everybody has a part to play. All of us are united in faith, in prayer and in the 'community' or the 'family' of the Church. Each person has a contribution to make and is therefore valued as a sister or brother in Christ. I have seen, in different ways, how over the years the sense of partnership or collaboration has increased in the parishes and communities of our diocese with priests and people working and planning together for the good of the whole parish. It has been good to see the partnership between the parish and school communities developing with a joint concern for our young people. There has been much growth with initiatives in the ecumenical field where, in many parishes, there is a greater sense of partnership with our fellow Christians in other Churches and, indeed, with all people of good will. The Catholic Church increasingly is at the heart of Christian witness to our world, sharing our faith and the truths that we profess in every way that we can with the communities in which we live. 

During the next two years we will be reflecting on the fact that we are partners in service, first of all to the Lord and then to each other. As St. Paul says, "There are all sorts of service to be done though always to the same Lord, working in all sorts of different ways in different people". As we reflect on this aspect of the Church, I trust that there can be a greater sharing of gifts within each parish community and greater participation of people in the celebration of the liturgy. 

I hope that our witness of life and faith within the local community will be more manifest and more courageous, as we seek to articulate and live the gospel values that we profess. We should develop the opportunities we have to work more closely with other local groups and organisations, and to involve them in the life of the parish. 

I hope, too, there will be a real development of collaborative ministry, both within the Church and beyond, especially in the ecumenical dimension that we work as much as we can with our fellow Christians. I was very struck by what Pope John Paul said in his recent encyclical on Christian Unity, that for him the ecumenical task is one of the pastoral priorities of his pontificate. The Pope says that he thought of the grave obstacle which the lack of unity represents for the proclamation of the gospel. Should we not make his prayer our own? "May the Holy Spirit guide us along the way of reconciliation so that the unity of our Churches may become an ever more radiant sign of hope and consolation for all mankind". 

An important partnership is that which exists between home, parish and our Catholic schools. We are all greatly indebted to the efforts of all those who work in our Catholic schools in the diocese, for the kind of service that they give to the whole Catholic community and beyond, and especially of course to our children. In a short while I will be issuing a statement about Catholic Schools and their place within the Church of our diocese, stressing their importance and urging the Catholic community to support them in every way that is open to them. 

There will be numerous other ways in which our partnership in service can be expressed and I hope that each parish, through its planning team, will reflect on these and find ways to develop locally our Partnership-in-Service. 

Finally, I want to mention that there will be a launch of this aspect of our preparation for the Millennium at the Summer School on 'Partners in Service 'to be held in July. There will be representatives from each parish at this Summer School which will be looking at the way we will be Christ in our world and partners in service. On the last day, Sunday, July 14th, 1996 I invite everyone to come for a final Mass at Woldingham School at 3 p.m. when there will be a formal launching of Partners in Service. 

May God's peace be with you all this Pentecost and let us give thanks to Him for the gifts of the Spirit that have been given to us. Again, I repeat the words of St. Paul in today's reading: "There is a variety of gifts but always the same Spirit; there are all sorts of service to be done but always to the same Lord, working in all sorts of different ways in different people; it is the same God who is working in all of them. The particular way in which the Spirit is given to each person is for a good purpose." 

May God bless you all ,and with an assurance of my prayers and kindest wishes, 

Yours devotedly in Christ, 

Rt. Rev. Cormac Murphy-O'Connor
Bishop of Arundel and Brighton.