Tuesday, October 10, 2006

"My Brother the Pope"

Fresh out of his first private audience with Benedict XVI yesterday, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor of Westminster gave an extended interview to Gerry O'Connell of The Universe, the fulltext of which is available at the archdiocesan website.

While Murphy-O'Connor asked for the meeting to discuss the state of the church in England and Wales, it didn't hurt that he had spent part of the prior week in Moscow meeting with Alexei II, the Russian Orthodox Patriarch and a person of great interest to the pontiff. In the context of the session, another big ecumenical meeting was announced -- next month, the cardinal will accompany Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams as the Anglican supremo gets his first one-on-one encounter with the new Pope.

Some snips:
On meeting Alexei: "[The patriarch] mentioned first of all his high esteem for Pope Benedict. And I was able to assure him that the Pope would say ‘amen’ to many things he was saying about the Orthodox and the Catholic Church because he certainly agrees on all those things, particularly about sharing common values in Europe and how we need to work together more and support each other in such matters as the family and bioethics, and standing up for the faith, strongly, in a secular culture...."

"He asked me to convey his warm greetings to 'my brother the Pope.'... The Pope was very happy to hear all this. Of course, part of Pope Benedict’s agenda is to develop a closer relationship with the whole of the Orthodox Church, and clearly the Patriarch of Moscow is a very important Patriarch and therefore the Pope was very pleased to hear what I had to say, and took on board the kind of things the Patriarch was saying."

On the church in England and Wales: "The weaknesses: that fewer people are going to mass, there are less priests, the pressure and tensions of secular society. The strengths are that we count now more as Church than we did before and that, in a sense, if we could have more articulate lay people able to express their faith we are in a very good position to do so. People respect the Catholic Church, even if they do not agree with its teaching in the moral sphere. They recognize the rationality here and I think, increasingly they see that what the Catholic Church teaches, it teaches it because it is true.

"[Benedict[ was very interested in what I was saying. I found him very easy to talk to, very friendly, engaged, listening to what you I had to say, very encouraging, and sending greetings to the bishops of England and Wales and to their people. All in all I felt that the relationship between the Catholic Church in England and Wales and the bishops there – obviously including myself, and the Holy Father is very warm and very close.

On the recent Panorama: "I wrote a letter [to BBC director-general Mark Thompson], but so far I have not received a reply, to the best of my knowledge. My aim was not to deny the BBC the right to show evidence of the terrible thing that child abuse is. Rather, I questioned the reasons for transmitting such a documentary. The fact of the matter is that the research for such an important documentary, leading to this frontal attack on Pope Benedict accusing him of covering up child-abuse, actually produced no solid evidence to authorize such a terrible charge. So I have to ask why did they do it? It is of course quite evident that they wanted to attack the Pope, but the fundamental question is why did the BBC allow them to broadcast such a program? ...

On Cormac's upcoming observance of 50 years of priesthood: "I think they have enabled me to reflect on the mystery of life, on the mystery of Christ, on the mystery of his Church and the mystery of how the Catholic Church is with Christ yesterday, today and forever. My life as a priest is one which, like all good marriages, has had its ups and downs, its trials and its joys. It was what I expected when I made a commitment to be ordained as a priest, and said that I would serve the Lord as a shepherd in any way that I was asked to do.

"I never asked for any particular work. I worked for ten years as a parish priest, then I worked helping a bishop, and afterwards I worked as rector of a seminary for six years, and then a bishop for nearly thirty years. These particular forms of shepherding have been given to me and I have accepted all this as the will of the Lord, and beyond it all I see it as Providence that God has called me and wants me to live it out to the end in whatever way he wishes. It is a commitment to the work of ministry which is a service, not a power and I regard the work of a bishop as a kindly oversight for the benefit of others. I look on all these fifty years as happy years, with all their trials. I think they have helped to make me a more human person and perhaps a little bit wiser and more compassionate."