DIOCESE OF EAST ANGLIA
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10 March 2019;
Pastoral letter from Bishop Alan Hopes
In his pastoral letter for the first Sunday in Lent, Bishop Alan Hopes addresses the recent revelations about abuse in the Catholic Church.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
At the beginning of Lent, I wish to speak to you about the challenges that are undermining the Church’s mission and Her ability to proclaim the Gospel to the world of today.
Over the past few months the Church across the world has been shaken by the shocking and heart-breaking revelations of historic abuse of children and vulnerable persons by members of the Church – laity, deacons, religious, priests, bishops and cardinals.
It has also been distressing to learn that some bishops and other religious leaders have failed to respond adequately to accusations made against clergy in their respective dioceses. The lack of response to the suffering of the victim-survivors by some bishops and religious leaders, even to the point of rejecting them and covering them up to protect the perpetrators and the Church, has left a deep wound in the relationship with those we are sent to serve.
All of this is both deeply offensive and disturbing.
In solidarity with Pope Francis and my fellow bishops, I want to express my deep sorrow for the hurt and the damage that has been caused to the victim-survivors of such abuse.
Nothing that I can say will ever be adequate or mitigate this hurt and damage. But I am truly sorry that you have been made to carry this burden simply because of the failures of some of our clergy and lay people.
Together with the other bishops of England and Wales, I will always make time to listen to those who wish to speak to me about the abuse they have suffered. I have asked our Diocesan Co-Ordinator for Safeguarding to help me facilitate this.
I know also that these revelations will have tested the faith and trust of so many people. That includes the vast majority of our committed lay faithful and also our deacons, priests and bishops who serve so faithfully in their ministry and who feel discredited and dishonoured by the shameful conduct of some of their confreres.
I know that you all carry the failures of your fellow Catholics and your colleagues with a heavy heart. Please be assured of my heartfelt concern and prayers for you all. I also ask you for your prayers at this challenging time.
I wish also to assure you that since 2001, the Catholic Church in England and Wales has adopted robust procedures in order to begin to rebuild that trust which has been lost. We can have confidence in these procedures. They are found in every Diocese and parish.
The bishops no longer oversee safeguarding matters.
Every Diocese has a Diocesan Safeguarding Co-ordinator together with an independent safeguarding Commission and any suspected criminal behaviour is immediately reported to the statutory authorities.
Every parish has a safeguarding representative to check that all those who work in any way with the young and vulnerable are able to do so.
I want to express my gratitude to our Diocesan Safeguarding Co-Ordinator, Mick Thurley, to the members of the Diocesan Safeguarding Commission and to all those who work as safeguarding representatives in our Diocese to make sure that our parishes, our communities and our schools are safe places for all and especially the most vulnerable.
Lent is a moment when we are called to Return to the Lord with all your hearts.
If our faith and trust is to be restored and if the Church is truly to be seen as the Body of Christ here on earth, then that is exactly what we must do – we must return to our roots – return to Christ – back to the One who alone is able to renew us all from within.
That means turning to our Crucified Saviour first in deep repentance and then re-fixing our gaze upon him. There is no other way in which the Body of Christ and each of its members will or can be renewed in the life of mission and love to which we are all called.
May this Lent be a time of deep repentance and a returning to the Lord.
Be assured of my prayers and good wishes,
Yours devotedly in Christ,
The Right Revd Alan S Hopes
Bishop of East Anglia
Pastoral Letter on the Eucharist – 09 September 2018
As the Eucharistic Congress is being celebrated in Liverpool this weekend, Bishop Alan Hopes focuses his pastoral letter on the Eucharist as the fulfilment of the Lord’s promise.
To be read at all Masses throughout the Diocese during the weekend September 8/9, 2018
Please read the Gospel for the Twentieth Sunday of the Year (B) (John 6: 51-58) instead of the one prescribed for the Twenty Third of the Year.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
During these last three days the Church in England and Wales has been celebrating a Eucharistic Congress in Liverpool.
It was called in order that we might reflect more fully on the depths of the great mystery of the Blessed Eucharist.
The Eucharist is the fulfilment of the Lord’s promise that he would dwell in the heart of his Church until the end of time and is at the heart of our Catholic life and spirituality.
We unite ourselves today with that celebration in Liverpool through prayer and through reflection on the Eucharist and how it should affect our lives.
Nearly five hundred years ago, Catholics in this country were forbidden to attend Mass and to receive Holy Communion.
Many faithful lay people, priests and bishops broke the law, even when threatened with torture and death. Many of them were martyred for doing so, whilst many others were reduced to poverty.
In 1975, Archbishop Van Thuan of Saigon was arrested by the communist government of Vietnam because he was a charismatic Christian bishop. He was placed in prison for 13 years, nine of them in solitary confinement.
After some months, sympathetic guards regularly smuggled in small amounts of wine, and using some crumbs from his daily bread ration, he celebrated Mass each day in the confines of his cell and received the Eucharist.
He was later banished from Saigon and eventually from Vietnam.
For those caught up in the dark days of the reformation and for Cardinal Van Thuan, celebrating Mass and receiving the Blessed Eucharist was not a matter of choice but of necessity, as and when the moment presented itself.
For in the Eucharist they knew that they were fed by the Lord’s Body and Blood, the Food which gave them the strength for the dark journey they were undergoing; which renewed them in their faith and hope; which renewed their ability to love and to forgive, even those who tortured and killed them.
Often today, especially in the West, we take the Mass and the receiving of Holy Communion for granted. So today, through the words of the Gospel, the Lord helps us to reflect on his Eucharistic Presence with us and the effect it should have on our lives:
If you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you will not have life in you. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him. As I who am sent by the living Father myself draw life from the Father, so whoever eats me will draw life from me.
The Blessed Eucharist, then, is no ordinary Food.
Our daily food, once digested, becomes part of us. It is absorbed into our blood, bones, muscles, fibre and fat. It is burnt up to supply our heat and energy; this food is changed into us.
The Eucharist works the other way around. We are changed into what we have received.
St Augustine writes these words he heard during prayer:
I am the Food of grown men and women: grow and you shall eat me. And you shall not change me into yourself as bodily food: you shall be changed into me.
Each time, then, that we receive his Body and Blood in the Eucharist with faith and devotion, we are being transformed into the likeness of Christ. We gradually grow into his life, both in mind and will.
Our thinking will become more and more influenced according to the light of our Lord’s teaching. Our wills are strengthened more and more by our union with Christ, so that our motives in life will gradually become less selfish and more truly Christian.
In fact, through receiving the Eucharist, we become more truly the person whom God has created us to be.
How important, then, it is for us to come to the Celebration of Mass, week by week, and even day by day! Not just for our own personal benefit – but also for that of the whole Church, so that together we might proclaim the mighty works of God to the whole world.
How important also it is for us to spend personal time with the Lord between those moments of receiving the blessed Eucharist! Set aside some time for the Lord whose Eucharistic Presence in the tabernacles of our churches invites us to ponder on the depths of his great gift to us.
For it is at these moments we can absorb the gifts with which he fills our lives at the moment of Holy Communion.
The obligation to come to Mass will then no longer be seen as something imposed by the Church. The Mass becomes a necessity for us in which our human lives are touched by and renewed with the divine life of God himself.
However, Holy Communion is not intended just to be a moment of individual piety. The divine energy that we receive from Christ in the Eucharist must be expressed in all that we do.
St Theresa of Calcutta was a great witness to the power and grace of the Blessed Eucharist.
She and her sisters would rise early, spend a long time in prayer of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, attend Mass and receive the Body and Blood of Christ. They did so with great devotion. Then, with equal devotion, they went out to tend the suffering body of Christ in the poor.
The Eucharist is their source of love, energy and strength.
We too are called to be the living members of Jesus Christ’s Body on earth – continuing his mission of mercy and love and reconciliation among all peoples.
Jesus counts on us. But first we have to learn to count on the divine energy and grace that he gives us in the Bread of Life.
For this is the Bread from Heaven which gives us strength for our journey, renewal in our faith and hope, renewal in our ability to love and to forgive, for
He who eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood, lives in me and I live in him.
With all good wishes and an assurance of my prayers,
Yours in Christ,
Bishop Alan Hopes.