This last Sunday, the Twenty Ninth of the Year, I published a Pastoral Letter to be read at all Masses across the Diocese. It’s about the future of the Diocese. Click here for the video recording. You can read it here.
I am writing to you about the future of the Catholic Church.
The Church is a Divine Mystery. As we affirm in the Creed: “I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.” The Church is founded on Jesus Christ and led by the Holy Spirit. She is the Bride of Christ, and Jesus promised He would be with Her until the end of time. But the Church is human as well as Divine. Christ is the Head but the Body is formed of people like you and me, human beings capable of greatness but also fallible, prone to error and sin. Whilst Jesus gave the gift of infallibility to His Church, that she would never err in her teachings on faith and morals, He never promised the Church would always last in any particular place. Look at North Africa. Once, this was the land of St. Cyprian, St. Augustine and many of the great Fathers of the Church, a land where important synods and councils assembled to defend the true faith. Today, there is nothing left. This is why I am writing to you about the future of the Catholic Church, at least the future of this Church in this place, the Diocese of Portsmouth.
Two weeks ago, I celebrated the tenth anniversary of my ordination as Bishop. I must thank you for the great number of prayers and cards you kindly sent. Over the last decade, despite the challenge of the pandemic and, more, the toxic effects of an affluent, secular culture, I have sought as the Shepherd of the flock to inspire everyone to look outwards to mission and service. The Church exists to evangelise. It does not have a mission: it is mission. Bringing people closer to Jesus Christ through His Church is our purpose. Like breathing-in and breathing-out, evangelisation is about ourselves growing in faith, as much as about reaching out to others to propose faith. While the immediate goal of evangelisation is the conversion of individuals, the ultimate goal is the baptism of culture. So, this is about digging deeper in order to go out into the deep. It is about renewal for the sake of outreach. It’s about growing in love for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist in order to go out to serve Him in the poor. In this, progress cannot be measured simply by numbers. But the numbers have now become so challenging that we have to act more radically. Doing nothing or ‘business as usual,’ is not an option, otherwise many, many churches across our Diocese will close down. This is why we now find ourselves, helped by your suggestions, with a much more comprehensive plan. Called You Will be My Witnesses, it is an exciting vision, a mission strategy for the next ten years. If the Lord spares me, that is where I believe He wants me to lead our Diocese in the decade ahead.
Read the full Pastoral Letter here.