This homily was given on Thursday 28 February 2013, at a Solemn Mass for the Election of a Pope, at St Patrick’s, Soho Square.
What sets our faith apart? Quite simply, it is this: ‘Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction’. These are the words of Pope Benedict XVI, now Bishop of Rome Emeritus, in his 2005 encyclical on Christian love, Deus Caritas Est, and in many ways they an insight into his pontificate, and a template for the whole of the Christian life.
Over the past few days certain parts of the press and media have had a field-day with the Church, and as the Cardinals gather in Rome and the conclave begins, to elect a new Pope, we will surely see much more speculation and intrigue appear. The fundamental misunderstanding which seems to be at the heart of these reports is this: however much we try and say otherwise, the world can only really see the Church as an institution and the Pope as a kind-of CEO. For ‘secular culture’, the idea that we are not simply dealing with the appointment of a new President or Prime Minister, is one which is alien to most people. But if we look at the example of Pope Benedict’s pontificate, and even his resignation, we can all find again the true nature of the Church and the essential vocation of the Christian life to which we are all called.