Cardinal Vincent Nichols: Consistory Shows Universality of Church

UK Prelate Reflects on New Appointment

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The universality of the Church, the richness of friendship, and Pope Francis’ «intense insistence that our relationship with Christ is what lies at the heart of everything,» were among the predominate themes of the weekend consistory during which nearly 20 bishops were created cardinals.

These were some of the reflections made by newly created Cardinal Vincent Nichols during a press briefing today at the Venerable English College in Rome.

The public consistory on Saturday and the Mass with Pope Francis the following day, said the archbishop of Westminster, were “very vivid and powerful experience of the universality of the Church.”

“To be among 18 new cardinals from 15 different countries, and only four of them Europeans, begins, I think, to make very clear where the strength of Catholicism lies, and how important it is that the college of cardinals reflects that diversity and universality of the Church.”

“To think of the Church purely from the point of view of Europe, purely from the point of view of our preoccupations in Europe, is not to see the whole picture,” he said.

Speaking with ZENIT ahead of the consistory, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Cardinal Nichol’s predecessor as the archbishop of Westminster, also noted the universality of the Church, as seen in Pope Francis’ choice of cardinals, saying they are not from places “where you would expect.”

“The global Church is emphasized here,” he said, “particularly the poor countries.”

However, the retired cardinal said the Pope has often spoken about how “the poorest countries have a right to be heard in the international forum of the college of cardinals, as much as the very strong and wealthy countries.”

One of the primary themes of the weekend consistory, Cardinal Nichols told the press, was contained in the words of Pope Francis, who said that “the experience of faith and the content of faith is most of all the business of walking with Jesus each day.»

Christ did not come to give us an ideology or teach us good manners, he said, but to “teach us each day the compassion, the forgiveness, the openness of heart, the patience that we need for the day.”

Citing the large gatherings, hosted at the VEC in celebration of his cardinalship, the prelate noted “the depth and the richness of friendships that the Church helps to nurture among people.”

“There’s human friendship, but when it’s lived and experienced in the richness and family of faith, then it is really deepened, and really becomes very, very precious.”

Tasks ahead

Cardinal Nichols also took the opportunity during the briefing to announce that he would be chairing the second international conference on human trafficking, which is set to take place in Rome on 9-10 April.

The forthcoming conference, he said, which will gather Church leaders and law-enforcement officers from around the world, is “a unique initiative because it is about the practice, the day-by-day work, to counter that real scourge around the world of commercial trafficking of human beings.»

“It is about practical cooperation between the Church on the ground and the law enforcement agencies in the fight against human trafficking.”

The patron saint designated for this cause is Saint Josephine Bakhita, herself a slave, on whose 8 February feast day was hosted a day of prayer for victims of human trafficking.


Reflecting on the challenges which Cardinal Nichols will need to confront, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor said that his will be the same most cardinals in Western society face: “A sort of liberal culture which tries to put religion and its beliefs on the periphery.”

“In England and Wales,” he continued, “it means he has got to use his voice as a Cardinal now – which has particular significance in the English context – to not just stand up for Catholic values, but also be able to make sure that the Christian voice in the public forum is upheld. I think he’ll do that very well.”

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Ann Schneible

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