This section will be used to publish Bishop Alan’s regular Pastoral Letters – and also his occasional messages to us all.
I am sure we will find them useful and stimulating.
Message for Easter 2019
Bishop Alan reflects on two marvellous encounters on the very first Easter morning.
‘He is not here; he has risen!’
These are the words of the Angel to Mary of Magdala, that first Easter morning. They are the words that we will hear at the great Mass of the Easter Vigil, the climax of the Easter liturgy.
That marvellous encounter, of Mary with the Angel, is followed by something more wonderful still: Mary sees Jesus Himself.
In his Gospel, St John the Evangelist records the words actually spoken by Mary in this extraordinary moment. Mary exclaims, ‘I have seen the Lord!’
It is no co-incidence that Mary’s words, full of breathless love, echo the phrase that John himself had used at the beginning of his Gospel: ‘And the Word became Flesh and dwelt among us… and we have seen His glory.’
This is the vision of Easter. Mary’s vision, and John’s, is the vision of every Christian. It is your vision, and mine: we have seen His glory! We have seen the Lord!
After our journey through the desert of Lent, and through the deep sorrow of the Passion, the vision of the Risen Lord is one of life-changing joy.
For truly this is for us – as it was for Mary, and for John – an encounter which changes our lives. It is an encounter with the One who allows us to experience all the fullness of God’s goodness and truth, with the One who sets us free, heals us, and restores our dignity. This explains the depth of feeling in Mary’s words. Jesus after all was the One who enabled her to be reborn, who gave her a new future, a life of goodness and complete fulfilment. He is risen!
In one of his sermons as Bishop of Hippo, St Augustine says to the people of his diocese, ‘the resurrection of the Lord is our hope!’ That is as true for each one of us and for our diocese today, as it was on that first Easter morning, for Mary and for John. The resurrection of the Lord is our hope – and it is a hope that will never deceive us.
In our own, troubled times – when political leaders seem helpless in the face of division and uncertainty – how clear it is, once again, that there is only the One in whom we can place absolute trust!
Let us enter then into that Easter joy of Mary. Let us listen again to the message of the angel, and make it our own:
‘There is no need to be afraid… He is risen!’
And then let us make that message known once again in our families, in our communities and in our world today.
With the assurance of my prayers for a truly joyful and hope-filled Easter,
Devotedly in Christ,
This is the text of an article on the Diocesan website on 19 March. It is particularly rlevant given Bishop Alan’s Pastoral Letter below it.
Bishop expresses sorrow as priest is jailed for abuse
Fr Francis McDermott, a retired priest from the Diocese of Northampton, who was found guilty of abusing six children during the 1970s in London, High Wycombe and Norwich has today (March 14) been jailed for nine years and 11 months.
Rt Rev Alan Hopes, Bishop of East Anglia, said: “I want to express my horror and deep sorrow for the hurt and damage that has been caused to the victim-survivors of this terrible abuse.
“These men and women have shown such great courage in coming forward at this time after carrying the burden of this hurt and damage for so many years. I hope and pray that today will bring some closure and much healing to their lives.
“Any kind of abuse is not tolerated in the Church. Our robust present day procedures ensure that we are continuing to build a safe environment for all.”
Bishop Alan has offered to meet and listen to the victims of this case and anyone else who wants to talk to him about abuse in the church.
In the event of any concerns arising from this case, or over safeguarding issues, please contact the East Anglia Diocesan Safeguarding Coordinator, Mick Thurley on 020 8505 4199 or 07429 215344.
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