BISHOP OF PORTSMOUTH
Rt. Rev. Philip A. Egan BA, STL, PhD
MESSAGE FROM BISHOP PHILIP
to the Clergy and People of the Diocese of Portsmouth
about the Canonisation of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II
On behalf of the whole Diocese of Portsmouth, I would like to express delight and gratitude to God for the canonisation of Blessed John XXIII and Blessed John Paul II this coming weekend, Divine Mercy Sunday, 27 April 2014, by Pope Francis. Here we have great popes of living memory. In them the Church is not only being given two powerful intercessors in heaven but also for us on earth two inspiring examples of Christian discipleship and priestly ministry.
Pope John XXIII, who reigned from 1958 to 1963, will be remembered above all for calling the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. The Council met in four plenary sessions from 1962 to 1965 and most of the world's then 2500 bishops attended it. Pope John wanted Vatican II to be a 'pastoral' council. It would not make new definitions of doctrine but pursue an aggiornamento, an updating or modernisation of the Church's style, discipline, thinking and modus operandi for the sake of connecting with and evangelising the modern world. He wanted the Council to bring about a spiritual renewal, a 'new Pentecost' to reinvigorate the Church's mission in the world and to focus Christians on all those in our society who have yet to hear effectively the Gospel of Christ. He also hoped the Council would help to bring about unity among Christians both of East and West.
Vatican II was unique in that its sixteen documents are still very much 'live' documents today. Unlike previous Councils, which adopted tightly defined conceptual frameworks, the texts of Vatican II are more discursive; like a river with many tributaries, they synthesise many traditions, strands, contributions and positions. Pope Paul VI, Blessed John XXIII's successor, wanted the documents to be approved by overwhelming majorities and so the final products express a consensus that cannot be proof-texted in the manner of biblical fundamentalists. As with reading the New Testament, individual sentences and paragraphs need to be read within the whole, and, importantly, in the light of their post-conciliar interpretation. Moreover, as Pope Benedict XVI observed, it is important not to see Vatican II as a rupture with the past but within the continuity of Catholic Tradition nor to split the 'spirit' of the Council from its 'letter'. In fact, the Council was unique in that it instituted a process within the Church that continues today. Its documents prompt dialogue and discussion, encourage deeper understanding and promote ever-new applications. The Council's reception over the last fifty years as expressed in papal and episcopal magisterium, in the prudential judgments of the Roman curia, in the continuing discussion among theologians, as well as in the on-going study of the documents by the whole Church, is part of the process it instituted. We see this lived out in the present pontificate of Pope Francis.
Pope John Paul II, who reigned from 1978 to 2005, will surely one day attract the epithet 'The Great.' He has been a key player in the process of the reception of Vatican II and its teaching. He strove to implement the Council's vision as the Church entered the third millennium. On his many missionary journeys, he sought to announce the Gospel and teach the truth about God and about being human. He has left a large body of teaching that includes the Code of Canon Law (1983), the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992), fourteen encyclical letters on doctrine and morals, as well as his celebrated 'theology of the body' expounding the Church's teaching on the value of life, love and human sexuality. He is also remembered for his role in bringing down communism and his struggle against the Western 'culture of death.'
These popes were men full of energy. Central to their inner life was their deep faith and personal friendship with Christ. It was from Him they gained courage and tenacity. Who can forget the gentle humility of 'Good Pope John'? Who can forget 'Papa Wojtyla's' patient endurance of old age and sickness as he waved from his hospital bed? Very different personalities, one a diplomat and Church historian, the other a moral philosopher and university chaplain, each gave us a glimpse of the Master who "came not to be served but to serve" (Matthew 20: 28). They showed us in our time the compassionate Heart of our Saviour.
To celebrate this occasion, I would like to announce two initiatives and to invite everyone in our Diocese of Portsmouth to participate. First, I would like to invite everyone in the Diocese to select a short saying or passage from the writings and speeches of Pope John XXIII and/or Pope John Paul II and to tweet it to me (@BishopEgan) as well as to all your friends. It would be good to do this next Sunday, the day of the canonisation.
And secondly, I wish to ask every parish across the Diocese to offer a Mass on Sunday 11thMay (Fourth Sunday of Easter) in thanksgiving for Saint John XXIII and Saint John Paul II. The intention would be to ask the prayers of the new saints for vocations to all states of life and ministry within our Diocese, but especially to the sacred priesthood. In that Mass, please also pray for all our seminarians presently in formation for the priesthood.
With my prayers and best wishes,
In Corde Iesu,
20 April 2014,
Lentern Message of Pope Francis - 2014
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As Lent draws near, I would like to offer some helpful thoughts on our path of conversion as individuals and as a community. These insights are inspired by the words of Saint Paul:
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9).
The Apostle was writing to the Christians of Corinth to encourage them to be generous in helping the faithful in Jerusalem who were in need. What do these words of Saint Paul mean for us Christians today? What does this invitation to poverty, a life of evangelical poverty, mean to us today?
First of all, it shows us how God works.
He does not reveal himself cloaked in worldly power and wealth but rather in weakness and poverty: “though He was rich, yet for your sake he became poor …”. Christ, the eternal Son of God, one with the Father in power and glory, chose to be poor; he came amongst us and drew near to each of us; he set aside his glory and emptied himself so that he could be like us in all things (cf. Phil 2:7; Heb 4:15).
God’s becoming man is a great mystery! But the reason for all this is his love, a love which is grace, generosity, a desire to draw near, a love which does not hesitate to offer itself in sacrifice for the beloved. Charity, love, is sharing with the one we love in all things. Love makes us similar, it creates equality, it breaks down walls and eliminates distances.
God did this with us. Indeed, Jesus “worked with human hands, thought with a human mind, acted by human choice and loved with a human heart. Born of the Virgin Mary, he truly became one of us, like us in all things except sin.” (Gaudium et Spes, 22).
By making himself poor, Jesus did not seek poverty for its own sake but, as Saint Paul says “that by his poverty you might become rich”. This is no mere play on words or a catch phrase. Rather, it sums up God’s logic, the logic of love, the logic of the incarnation and the cross.
God did not let our salvation drop down from heaven, like someone who gives alms from their abundance out of a sense of altruism and piety. Christ’s love is different! When Jesus stepped into the waters of the Jordan and was baptized by John the Baptist, he did so not because he was in need of repentance, or conversion; he did it to be among people who need forgiveness, among us sinners, and to take upon himself the burden of our sins.
In this way he chose to comfort us, to save us, to free us from our misery. It is striking that the Apostle states that we were set free, not by Christ’s riches but by his poverty. Yet Saint Paul is well aware of the “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph 3:8), that he is “heir of all things” (Heb 1:2).
So what is this poverty by which Christ frees us and enriches us? It is his way of loving us, his way of being our neighbour, just as the Good Samaritan was neighbour to the man left half dead by the side of the road (cf. Lk 10:25ff).
What gives us true freedom, true salvation and true happiness is the compassion, tenderness and solidarity of his love. Christ’s poverty which enriches us is his taking flesh and bearing our weaknesses and sins as an expression of God’s infinite mercy to us.
Christ’s poverty is the greatest treasure of all: Jesus wealth is that of his boundless confidence in God the Father, his constant trust, his desire always and only to do the Father’s will and give glory to him.
Jesus is rich in the same way as a child who feels loved and who loves its parents, without doubting their love and tenderness for an instant. Jesus’ wealth lies in his being the Son; his unique relationship with the Father is the sovereign prerogative of this Messiah who is poor.
When Jesus asks us to take up his “yoke which is easy”, he asks us to be enriched by his “poverty which is rich” and his “richness which is poor”, to share his filial and fraternal Spirit, to become sons and daughters in the Son, brothers and sisters in the firstborn brother (cf. Rom 8:29).
It has been said that the only real regret lies in not being a saint (L. Bloy); we could also say that there is only one real kind of poverty: not living as children of God and brothers and sisters of Christ.
We might think that this “way” of poverty was Jesus’ way, whereas we who come after him can save the world with the right kind of human resources. This is not the case. In every time and place God continues to save mankind and the world through the poverty of Christ, who makes himself poor in the sacraments, in his word and in his Church, which is a people of the poor.
God’s wealth passes not through our wealth, but invariably and exclusively through our personal and communal poverty, enlivened by the Spirit of Christ.
In imitation of our Master, we Christians are called to confront the poverty of our brothers and sisters, to touch it, to make it our own and to take practical steps to alleviate it.
Destitution is not the same as poverty: destitution is poverty without faith, without support, without hope. There are three types of destitution:
Material destitution is what is normally called poverty, and affects those living in conditions opposed to human dignity: those who lack basic rights and needs such as food, water, hygiene, work and the opportunity to develop and grow culturally. In response to this destitution, the Church offers her help, her diakonia (the call to serve the poor and oppressed), in meeting these needs and binding these wounds which disfigure the face of humanity. In the poor and outcast we see Christ’s face; by loving and helping the poor, we love and serve Christ. Our efforts are also directed to ending violations of human dignity, discrimination and abuse in the world, for these are so often the cause of destitution. When power, luxury and money become idols, they take priority over the need for a fair distribution of wealth. Our consciences thus need to be converted to justice, equality, simplicity and sharing.
Moral destitution is no less a concern, it consists in slavery to vice and sin. How much pain is caused in families because one of their members – often a young person - is in thrall to alcohol, drugs, gambling or pornography! How many people no longer see meaning in life or prospects for the future, how many have lost hope! And how many are plunged into this destitution by unjust social conditions, by unemployment, which takes away their dignity as breadwinners, and by lack of equal access to education and health care.
In such cases, moral destitution can be considered impending suicide. This type of destitution, which also causes financial ruin, is invariably linked to the spiritual destitution which we experience when we turn away from God and reject his love. If we think we don’t need God who reaches out to us though Christ, because we believe we can make do on our own, we are headed for a fall. God alone can truly save and free us.
Spiritual destitution. The Gospel is the real antidote to spiritual destitution: wherever we go, we are called as Christians to proclaim the liberating news that forgiveness for sins is possible, that God is greater than our sinfulness, that he freely loves us at all times and that we were made for communion and eternal life.
The Lord asks us to be joyous heralds of this message of mercy and hope! It is thrilling to experience the joy of spreading this good news, sharing the treasure entrusted to us, consoling broken hearts and offering hope to our brothers and sisters who are experiencing darkness.
It means following and imitating Jesus, who sought out the poor and sinners as a shepherd lovingly seeks his lost sheep. In union with Jesus, we can courageously open up new paths of evangelization and human promotion.
Dear brothers and sisters, may this Lenten season find the whole Church ready to bear witness to all those who live in material, moral and spiritual destitution, unaware of the Gospel message of the merciful love of God our Father, who is ready to embrace everyone in Christ.
We can so this to the extent that we imitate Christ who became poor and enriched us by his poverty. Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty. Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.
May the Holy Spirit, through whom we are “as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything” (2 Cor 6:10), sustain us in our resolutions and increase our concern and responsibility for human destitution, so that we can become merciful and act with mercy.
In expressing this hope, I likewise pray that each individual member of the faithful and every Church community will undertake a fruitful Lenten journey.
I ask all of you to pray for me.
May the Lord bless you and Our Lady keep you safe.
From the Vatican, 26 December 2013, the Feast of Saint Stephen, Deacon and First Martyr
Please note: The layout of Pope Francis' message has been adjusted to make it easier to read and understand.
If you would like to see the message in its original format please use this link.
PASTORAL LETTER FROM THE BISHOP
to be read aloud in all churches and chapels of the Diocese of Portsmouth on
12th January 2014, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
BECOMING A MISSIONARY DISCIPLE
Dear Missionary Disciples,
I am writing to wish you a happy New Year and God's blessing. I also wish to mention three important developments for 2014. But I must begin with a true story about a married couple I met in another diocese. Now in their 70s, they were life-long Mass-goers until recently when their parish was combined with another and the times of Mass were changed to enable the priest to cover both parishes. They always went to 10 o'clock Mass, but now the Mass was at 10.30. They were furious and had stopped going. 'Why?' I asked. 'Because it messes up Sunday lunch,' they said. I was shocked. Casting off the habit of a lifetime, they were depriving themselves of the Holy Eucharist and the parish of their support, all because their lunch would be 30 minutes late.
Today's feast of the Baptism of the Lord is instructive. In recalling the Baptism of Jesus, when the heavens opened, the Holy Spirit descended and the Father exclaimed 'This is my Son, the Beloved',1 we should reflect on our own Baptism, when Jesus chose us personally to be His disciple, when he sent the Holy Spirit upon us, and when he sent us out on mission, like John the Baptist, to point out to others the Lamb of God. As disciples of Christ, we are evangelisers sent on mission. I suspect that often since the 1960s, we have concentrated so much on the internal life of the Church - changing the liturgy, building up the parish, the pastoral care of the community - that we have neglected the Church's outward mission to others. As a result, we have become overly inward-looking, self-absorbed and numerically in decline.
It seems clear to me that what we need, across the diocese, is a huge shift of attitude. Take the Mass. The Eucharist is not only the summit of the Christian life, but its source. It is not like a big meal that afterwards we need to sleep off. No, the Mass should feed and inspire us to go and announce the Gospel and to do good works, for an authentically Eucharistic Church is a missionary Church. Or take the parish. Sadly, some middle-class Catholics look down on the parish and its clergy as a service-provider. No, the Church is never that. The parish is meant to be a community of missionary disciples, a place to encounter God, a centre of formation, a facility for charitable outreach and a resource for mission. Pope Francis puts it like this: "I dream of a missionary option, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church's customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channelled for the evangelisation of today's world, rather than for her self-preservation".
To bring about this shift in attitude, I wish to announce three developments, which I hope will help us all to develop an even deeper relationship with God, to recognise the gifts God has given us, and to fill us with missionary zeal.
First, as a follow-up to the Year of Faith, I am asking everyone in the diocese to keep a 'Year of Faith in Action'. I envisage this Year of Faith in Action to be a year of good works, of promoting justice, of putting faith into practice through deeds of charity especially in the local community. Pope Francis asks us to be a Church of the poor for the poor and there are many things we could do such as visiting the sick, supporting addicts, caring for the homeless, looking after a needy relative, loving the lonely, befriending immigrants, protecting the unborn child, helping with a food bank, assisting young parents, and so on. As Christians, our charity is never mere philanthropy, mindless activism or constant fundraising. Authentic charity stems from the heart, from love, indeed, from the love of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. It is because of His love for us that we feel impelled to care for those in need and to offer in a practical way the comfort of the Gospel. So let us ask: Who are the poor in this neighbourhood? What is the meaning of 'poverty' in our local context? What new strategies of assistance and support for those in need can we, individually and communally, put in place?
Secondly, in 2014 we will continue to roll out our new diocesan Framework for Collaboration. I thank you for your magnificent response to the request for volunteers, and currently a recruitment process is underway. There are many places still to fill and much work to be done, and we are particularly seeking male volunteers in the age-range 18 to 25. Is there any way you could help the diocese with its pastoral care services, or with its youth information-programmes, or with its activities of new evangelisation? The application forms are available on-line or from your parish clergy. When I was working in a parish in the US, I was impressed with how the parish school taught its students to tithe their time, that is, to give 10% of their free time to a voluntary work for the Church. Indeed, in that parish, the care of the sick and housebound was coordinated by a teenager. So I ask you: Could you tithe your spare time to serve Jesus and the mission of His Church?
And thirdly, in the summer, our Department for New Evangelisation has invited Sherry Weddell from the Catherine of Siena Institute, Los Angeles, to establish in the diocese the Called and Gifted Programme. Time and again research shows that the reason many Catholics lapse, or never practise their faith, is because they do not have, or do not even believe they can have, a life-changing, personal relationship with God. The Called and Gifted Programme, which eventually, we hope, will reach thousands of people across the Diocese of Portsmouth, is about helping people to develop a deeper friendship with God and a keener sense of being chosen personally by Jesus Christ to be His disciple. The Holy Spirit has enriched the people of our diocese with many gifts and talents, and the programme will seek to identify these gifts, in order to release them for the mission of the Church.
To conclude. In the First Reading at Mass today, speaking through Prophet Isaiah, the Lord said "I have appointed you ¼ to open the eyes of the blind, to free captives from prison, and those who live in darkness from the dungeon" (Isaiah 42:7). Those words, which the Liturgy applies to Jesus, might also be applied to you and me, his disciples. So I ask you to make a New Year's resolution. Please drop into church often and there spend some time with the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, praying for a new missionary joy among the people and clergy of our diocese. And ask the Immaculate Virgin Mary, Star of the New Evangelisation, and St. Edmund our Patron, to guide us with their powerful help and protection. I will write again in Lent. Meanwhile, may God bless you all with evangelii gaudium, the joy of the Gospel.
In Corde Iesu
Bishop of Portsmouth
9th December 2013, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
The following is a Pastoral Message from Bishop Philip to the priests and people of the Diocese of Portsmouth on the publication of Pope Francis’ post-synodal apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium. This Pastoral Message was issued on 9th December 2013. The apostolic exhortation is available online from www.vatican.va
Dear Missionary Disciples,
On 24th November this year, the Solemnity of Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe, in conclusion to the Year of Faith, Pope Francis published the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium ('The Joy of the Gospel') that followed up the Synod of Bishops held in Rome in 2012 on 'The New Evangelisation for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.' On behalf of the clergy and people of the Diocese of Portsmouth, I welcome this uplifting and courageous document and I wish publicly to thank the Holy Father for his deep and meaningful teaching. Because in this exhortation the pope freely develops the discussions of the Synod and adds so much of his own thought and reflection, I suggest that alongside Evangelii Gaudium, we also continue to study the 58 Propositions the Synod issued so that the significant contribution of the Synod to Catholic thought and to the work of our Diocese not be overlooked. The Propositions are available on the Vatican website (www.vatican.va).
Evangelii Gaudium is a long document. Yet it is easy to follow, and its central message, about how a personal relationship with Jesus Christ in His Body the Church naturally drives us out joyfully to evangelise others, is direct. It is a classic expression of Pope Francis' thought, style and preaching as seen in his daily homilies at Mass, his speeches and audiences. I encourage everyone in our diocese to read it and study it, perhaps a few paragraphs a day, over the coming months. It is a perfect accompaniment to the 'Year of Faith in Action' that I recently announced for the Diocese as a follow-up to the Year of Faith.
The exhortation has five chapters. In Chapter One (19-41), the Holy Father begins with the Church (19-41) and how we need to transpose everything into a missionary key, going beyond our comfort zones to take the Good News of Christ joyfully to the peripheries. He next discusses the crisis of community in the modern world (50-109), brought about in part by trickle- down economics and consumer culture, which generates individualism and indifference. In Chapter Three (110-175), he explores certain aspects of evangelisation, such as the need to inculturate the Gospel and the role of preaching. Chapter Four (176-258) is about the social dimension of the Church's mission, especially her preferential option for the poor - "I want a Church that is poor for the poor" (198) - and the need to build peace, justice and fraternity. The Holy Father concludes the exhortation with a brief chapter on the spirituality of being a missionary disciple (259-288).
There are three features of the exhortation I wish to draw attention to, before asking some specific questions about how the Holy Father’ message might apply to the Diocese of Portsmouth.
- First, note the Holy Father's trenchantly critical analysis of the current economic model of consumer capitalism (52-60). Money, he avers, has become an idol that no longer serves people but dominates and excludes, creating huge inequalities that marginalise many and lead some to violence. "How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? ... Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? (53)." In this context, "some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralised workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting." Indeed, "we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase" but in the meantime, "all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us (54)." The current socioeconomic system is "unjust at its root" (59): it needs to be brought into dialogue with ethics and with God.
- Clergy might note, secondly, the Holy Father's extensive consideration of the homily and its preparation (135-159). In the liturgy, the homily should not dominate but lead people, like a mother speaking with her child, to Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. The pastor must be close both to the Word of God and to his people. His words should set people on fire (142). The preacher needs to be personal (149), linked with daily life (154) and able to use clear images (157) with simple language (158). His message must always be positive and lead listeners to a personal encounter with Christ.
- Thirdly, the Holy Father speaks time and again of the Church's mission as one of preferential love for the poor (186-216). "Each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society." Indeed, if we, "who are God’s means of hearing the poor, turn deaf ears to this plea, we oppose the Father's will and his plan" (187). This planet belongs to everyone not just a few; the "mere fact that some people are born in places with fewer resources or less development does not justify the fact that they are living with less dignity. It must be reiterated that the more fortunate should renounce some of their rights so as to place their goods more generously at the service of others" (190). God’s heart "has a special place for the poor, so much so that he himself became poor” (2 Cor 8:9). The Saviour "was born in a manger, in the midst of animals, like children of poor families; he was presented at the Temple along with two turtledoves, the offering made by those who could not afford a lamb; he was raised in a home of ordinary workers and worked with his own hands to earn his bread" (197). This is why, Pope Francis adds, "I want a Church which is poor and for the poor" (198). He mentions the "homeless, the addicted, refugees, indigenous peoples, the elderly who are increasing isolated and abandoned, ... migrants ... victims of various kinds of human trafficking, ... unborn children," the latter being the "most defenceless and innocent" of all (210, 211 and 216).
Evangelii Gaudium is challenging. At times the Holy Father adopts a style of 'prophetic denunciation,' reminiscent of liberation theology, although without the undercurrent of Marxist ideology. It is a document to savour and return to, and a stimulus and call to put faith into action. In the Diocese of Portsmouth, as a follow-on from the Year of Faith, we have announced a ‘Year of Faith in Action’ and during this Year we will be establishing our new diocesan agency, Caritas Portsmouth. This is exactly in line with the Holy Father’s message. Consequently, I wish to urge the clergy and people of our parishes and pastoral areas to study this apostolic exhortation. Ask yourselves: Who are the poor in your neighbourhood? What is the meaning of 'poverty' in your local context? What strategies of assistance and support for those in need might you individually and communally put in place?
But there are three further questions the document raises for our Diocese of Portsmouth, that I would like to ask.
- First, our parish communities and pastoral areas. The parish, Pope Francis states, is a key locus of new evangelisation. Over the coming Year of Faith in Action, I wish to ask you to give some thought as to how our parishes and pastoral areas can be transformed into truly evangelising communities. "The parish is ... the presence of the Church in a given territory, an environment for hearing God’s word, for growth in the Christian life, for dialogue, proclamation, charitable outreach, worship and celebration. In all its activities the parish encourages and trains its members to be evangelisers. It is a community of communities, a sanctuary where the thirsty come to drink in the midst of their journey, and a centre of constant missionary outreach" (28).
As your bishop I ask you: How genuinely mission-oriented is your parish and your pastoral area?
- Secondly, our cities and urban areas. The Holy Father discusses the challenges of modern urban culture and the city as the particular goal of new evangelisation (71-75). We "need to look at cities with a contemplative gaze, a gaze of faith which sees God dwelling in their homes, in their streets and squares" (71). For new "cultures are constantly being born in these vast new expanses where Christians are no longer the customary interpreters or generators of meaning. Instead, they themselves take from these cultures new languages, symbols, messages and paradigms which propose new approaches to life, approaches often in contrast with the Gospel of Jesus" (73). The challenge is how to find "innovative spaces and possibilities for prayer and communion which are more attractive and meaningful for city dwellers" (74). So let us think of the cities and urban areas of our Diocese of Portsmouth. They tend to follow the motorway corridors: the M3, M4, M27 etc. Think, for instance, of Oxford, Reading, Ascot and Windsor, Aldershot, Basingstoke, Winchester, Eastleigh and Southampton, Portsmouth and Bournemouth. Then there are the islands, the Isle of Wight and the Channel Isles, which are fairly densely populated. How should we 'interpret' these dispersed urban areas? That is, how might the Lord be calling us specifically to evangelise them? What are the needs? What new ‘ways-in’ might there be?
At the moment, I am conducting a consultation about grouping our pastoral areas into six or seven larger regions or deaneries in order to enable better strategic thinking for the new evangelisation. But as your bishop I ask you: How might you, your parish community, your pastoral area, become a better evangeliser of the urban cultures of our dispersed centres?
- And thirdly, ourselves. Pope Francis here and elsewhere calls for our churches to be open. The "Church is called to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open. One concrete sign of such openness is that our church doors should always be open, so that if someone, moved by the Spirit, comes there looking for God, he or she will not find a closed door" (47). Moreover, "without prolonged moments of adoration, of prayerful encounter with the Word, of sincere conversation with the Lord, our work easily becomes meaningless; we lose energy as a result of weariness and difficulties, and our fervour dies out. The Church urgently needs the deep breath of prayer, and to my great joy groups devoted to prayer and intercession, the prayerful reading of God’s Word and the perpetual adoration of the Eucharist are growing at every level of ecclesial life" (262). How good it is, the Holy Father opines, "to stand before a crucifix, or on our knees before the Blessed Sacrament, and simply to be in his presence! How much good it does us when he once more touches our lives and impels us to share his new life!" (264). For the "primary reason for evangelising is the love of Jesus which we have received, the experience of salvation which urges us to ever greater love of him." In the Diocese of Portsmouth, I once again urge everyone: keep your church open! Visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament! Adore Him and come away renewed, sharing your love and happiness with others!
But as your bishop I ask you: When and how are you yourself going to find time to do this, to be in the Presence of the Lord in the Holy Eucharist?
Pope Francis concludes Evangelii Gaudium by turning to Mary. He notes that whenever we look to her, "we come to believe once again in the revolutionary nature of love and tenderness. In Her we see that humility and tenderness are not virtues of the weak but of the strong who need not treat others poorly in order to feel important themselves. ... She is the woman of prayer and work in Nazareth, and She is also Our Lady of Help, who sets out from Her town 'with haste' (Lk 1: 39) to be of service to others. This interplay of justice and tenderness, of contemplation and concern for others, is what makes the ecclesial community look to Mary as a model of evangelisation" (288).
At the end of this Message, let us commend ourselves and all the clergy and people of our Diocese to the powerful intercession of Mary Immaculate our Patron. Mary is the Star of New Evangelisation and if you look at my episcopal ‘coat of arms’ (at the head of this Pastoral Message) you will see that Star shining brightly in the sky over the Diocese of Portsmouth. Here is part of the Holy Father’s prayer, which I ask you now to pray:
"O Mary, Star of the New Evangelisation,
help us to bear radiant witness
to communion and service,
to ardent and generous faith,
and to justice and love of the poor,
so that the joy of the Gospel
may reach to the ends of the earth,
illuminating even the fringes of our world."
In Corde Iesu
Bishop of Portsmouth
Bishop Philip Egan
Bishop Philip Egan has named the pastoral administration of the Diocese of Portsmouth ‘The Framework for Collaboration’ (the ‘Framework’). The Framework mirrors the threefold ministry of the Bishop who acts in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ as the Priest, Prophet and King. Practically this has led to three Vicariates within the Framework: Vocation, Education and Evangelisation. These Vicariates represent three dynamically interrelated strands of Christian discipleship: call, formation and mission. The Framework brings dynamism and direction to all our diocesan activities. The call of Christ invites the disciple to formation in Christian doctrine, life and spirituality, and in turn sends him or her out on mission.
Framework for Collaboration "Forming Teams to Collaborate and Facilitate Practical Action"
(i) Pray for the mission of the Church in our Diocese of Portsmouth?
(ii) Witness to your faith to help others encounter Jesus Christ
(iii) Put your faith into action to allow Christ to transform the world with his justice and love?
If you have answered 'yes' to any of these questions could you consider volunteering to be part of the Framework for Collaboration?
If you would like to know more please look on the Diocesan website where Bishop Philip speaks about the Framework for Collaboration. There is additional information including details of teams currently recruiting. If you would like to be involved and are not sure how or in what area the Framework will be running interviews to help you discern whether God is calling you to be involved. These will begin in January 2014.