Portsmouth Diocese e-News Issue 435

February 20th, 2024
Alexei Navalny

The news of the sudden death this last weekend of Alexei Navalny, the Russian dissident and opponent of President Putin, has shocked and saddened us all. Navalny was 47 and incarcerated in an Arctic penal colony, where he had been held since 2021, serving a 19-year sentence. It’s another reminder of the dangerous times we live in, and of the fragile international situation at the moment. Let us pray for the long-suffering peoples of Russia. Let us also pray earnestly to the Lord for the gift of peace, not least in Ukraine and in the Middle East. Meanwhile, we are now into the first full week of Lent and e-News this week has a number of articles to help keep us ‘on track,’ especially the homily preached on Ash Wednesday, a short message from Fr. Mike Schmitz, and an encouragement to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, one of The Six Holy Habits. We have a reminder that this Friday is Family Fast Day and there are also some exciting events to draw to your attention to including the Divine Mercy Conference this weekend, the Alton Day of Renewal, a course on the Biblical roots of the Sacraments of Initiation, our upcoming Symposium in Winchester on medical and social ethics and after Easter, a Come and See session to find out more about the diaconate. Thanks to all who have sent in their news. Meanwhile, I pray for you all: have a blessed first week of Lent. [Image: APF/Vatican News]

Deacon Larry Murawski

From the Bishop


I express much gratitude to Deacon Larry Murawski for all his service these last years in the Cathedral parish in Portsmouth, where he has served since his ordination in 2019. After Easter, I have appointed him to serve in his home parish of Sacred Heart, Fareham to assist Canon John Cooke. Let us keep him and his wife, Yvette, in our prayers.

Repent and Believe in the Gospel

From the Bishop

ash wednesday

Lent is now underway. Here is the brief homily I preached at the 12.15pm Mass here in the Cathedral on Ash Wednesday last week.

Today, Ash Wednesday, we begin the joyful season of Lent – a time when God comes closer to us than ever. He longs for us to come back home, to repent of our sins and bad habits, to experience His love and to enter into a deeper relationship with Him. This is why the Church, during this season, recommends to us the three great works that Jesus speaks of in today’s Gospel: When you pray … When you fast … When you give alms. Prayer, fasting and charity, the three works of Lent, help us to change and convert, to respond to God’s love and to grow closer to Him.

Just before Christmas, Pope Francis announced that next year, 2025, will be a Holy Year and in preparation he has asked us to keep this year 2024 as a Year of Prayer. He suggests we focus on the Our Father. I remember once in Confession a penitent saying she had not done the penance I gave her the week before. I asked her what it was. ‘Two Our Fathers.’ ‘What’s the problem?’ I asked. She said, every time she began, her mind drifted away, meditating and reflecting on what she was saying. This Lent, for prayer may I suggest rereading the last 100 paragraphs of the Catechism which are dedicated to the Our Father? For self-denial: well, I’m sure you have many ideas of your own. For almsgiving and charity? What about the seven spiritual works of mercy: instructing, consoling, challenging, advising, forgiving, interceding and bearing wrongs?

Now, it is the Lord who speaks: come back to me with all your heart. Let’s begin this Lent with enthusiasm. Let’s join Jesus in the desert on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Let’s respond generously to the Lord’s invitation by prayer, self-denial and charity. I wish you a Happy Lent. [Image: NCR/Unsplash]

The Rite of Election 2024

From the Bishop

sjc cathedral full fhc

Last Saturday 17th February, the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion was held in the Cathedral. There were over 100 candidates and catechumens, and also two testimonies. Here is the homily I preached.

Each one of us has a story to tell, about our faith, about the history of our salvation, about what God has done for us in our lives. Some of us may have had a major moment of change and conversion, like St. Paul en route to Damascus, knocked off his horse. Many of us have gentler stories of growth in faith, about our upbringing, or getting married and having children, perhaps a period away from the Church before a quiet return. My own faith-story is rather straightforward. We were a Catholic family. I was one of five boys. We were not especially devout, but we did have the routine of going to Sunday Mass. God by His grace kept me going and later at university I eventually discerned a vocation to the priesthood. The point is: all of us have a story to tell, and maybe afterwards next door, we’ll have a chance to share them with one another.

Let me say this. We’ve just heard two beautiful readings, one the story of Abraham and the amazing promises God made him: I will make you a great nation; I will bless you; I will make your name famous. This is his story, the story of his call, his vocation, in which the Lord asked him to ‘up-sticks’ and leave for a distant land, about which he knew nothing. Like Abraham, we too do not know what the future is going to be like. All we do know is that God is love; He is our loving Father; He is to be trusted; we know that with Him all will be well, even if we cannot see the whole journey ahead. The point is: Abraham believed; he did leave his father’s house for a foreign land; God changed his life and so he became the first person of faith, our father in faith as the First Eucharistic Prayer puts it. But then in the Gospel, we hear a similar story about the first disciples, how John the Baptist pointed Jesus out and Jesus invited them to spend the day with Him, listening to His Word and getting to know Him. Come and see Jesus said to them. Andrew was so bowled over, he ran to tell his brother: We have found the Messiah. When Simon Peter came to Jesus, he too was converted, and his life thrown upside down.
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The Civic Mass

From the Bishop

civic mass 2024

Last Sunday, the First Sunday of Lent, the annual Civic Mass was held at the Cathedral. Present were many civic dignitaries from Portsmouth, former mayors, members of the City Council, including the Deputy Lieutenant, Penny Mordaunt and Stephen Morgan our MPs (pictured) Here is the homily I preached at the Mass.

I must offer a warm welcome to the Deputy Lieutenant Arabella Birchwood, to the Lord Mayor Tom Coles, to the Commodore, to our MPs, Penny Mordaunt and Stephen Morgan, to the Leader and members of the Council and to all our civic dignitaries with us today. I always look forward greatly to this annual Civic Mass because it gives the Catholic community an opportunity to honour you. In the name of the Lord, thank you for all you do to serve our great city. As leaders, you carry heavy burdens and great responsibilities; you do so for our sake and for our service. Thank you for this, for caring for all, especially for Portsmouth’s poor and needy. And thank you for respecting the many people of religion in this city, not least the Catholic population, c. 1 in 15. In this Mass, we pray for you; we ask the Lord to guide you; we ask Him to give you strength and joy.

This year the Civic Mass falls in the season of Lent – but let me come back to this in a moment. For this is also the year of a General Election and, as we saw this week in the by-elections in Wellingborough and Kingswood, the political parties are already shaping up their manifestos. There is much talk about the need for change, the economy, cutting NHS waiting lists, controlling immigration, the state of the public services and so on. Yet there are two very fundamental concerns that need our attention.
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Hampshire Church Leaders Gathering

From the Bishop

hampshire church leaders

Last Tuesday, we had a meeting of the Hampshire Church Leaders, of which I am the convenor. It was a special joy this time to welcome Bishop David Williams, the Anglican Bishop of Basingstoke and Bishop Geoff Annas, the Bishop of Southampton. We also had Major Mike Lloyd-Jones of the Salvation Army with us as well as Rev. Andrew de Ville, the District Chair of the Methodist Church. Bishop Jonathan of Portsmouth would usually be present but last week he was away on annual leave. This was the last time Rev. Andrew de Ville was with us as in the summer he is stepping down from being the District Chair and taking on leadership of the parish in Romsey. The meetings are joyful and informative. This time Bishop David led us in prayer, and we had an uplifting discussion about what gives us hope in our respective communities and in our lives. The meeting fished with lunch.

Please pray for all our church leaders and for our brothers and sisters in the other Christian communities.

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