The Right Reverend William Kenney CP, Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham, made a special visit to St John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Banbury, on Sunday 26 February, a parish where Bede Walsh served as a priest.
Bishop William Kenney and Mgr Canon Timothy Menezes, the Vicar General, spoke to parishioners both before and after the 10.45am Mass.
The Most Reverend Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham, sent a special message to the parishioners of St John’s Banbury. It was read by Mgr Menezes at the start of Mass.
Archbishop Longley wrote: “Dear Canon Mervyn Tower and dear Parishioners, I want to thank you for welcoming Bishop William and Mgr Timothy, the Vicar General, as they visit the parish on my behalf this weekend.
“I have asked them to come on this special pastoral visit following the trial and conviction of Bede Walsh at Stoke on Trent earlier this month. The unfolding of these events will undoubtedly have brought their share of confusion, sadness and suffering within your own parish.
“I know that you will appreciate that I cannot enter here into great detail about all the events or news that have been so disturbing over recent weeks. But at the same time it can never be helpful to our spiritual wellbeing to try to block out such things entirely from our prayers.
“As we begin the season of Lent we ask our Lord to brings wholeness and healing into our lives and the lives of all those who suffer as individuals or as communities. Sometimes a wound has to be exposed to the light of day before it can begin to heal. We are strengthened and re-assured when we see the compassion of Christ and his readiness to help us.
“I realise that for many this will be a difficult moment in the life of the parish. Yet it is also a moment when your witness as the Catholic community of Banbury is more than ever important. It is never easy to be under scrutiny or to know that we are being watched critically by others, and yet it is in these very circumstances that we can reflect most powerfully the love of God that we ourselves have received and the faith that sustains us.
The Archbishop of Birmingham emphasised: “When there is any betrayal of trust in the Church we are all affected. It contradicts the Gospel that anyone should look for the presence of Christ only for their faith in his Church to be undermined. It can be a long and difficult journey to find peace of mind and to build up sufficient confidence once again to approach the Church’s ministers in the search for understanding, spiritual guidance and support.
“It is only right that we expect those who are ordained to reflect the compassionate presence of Jesus among us. I am grateful that our parish communities are very rarely disappointed in this expectation. I ask you to pray especially for all those who have pastoral responsibility in the Church.”
Archbishop Longley concluded his message: “During the Papal Visit in September 2010, on the day before he beatified Blessed John Henry Newman, Pope Benedict XVI preached in Westminster Cathedral, spoke some powerful words.
Pope Benedict said: ‘I think of the immense suffering caused by the abuse of children, especially within the Church and by her ministers. Above all, I express my deep sorrow to the innocent victims of these unspeakable crimes, along with my hope that the power of Christ’s grace, his sacrifice of reconciliation, will bring deep healing and peace to their lives. I also acknowledge, with you, the shame and humiliation which all of us have suffered because of these sins; and I invite you to offer it to the Lord with trust that this chastisement will contribute to the healing of the victims, the purification of the Church and the renewal of her age-old commitment to the education and care of young people.’
“Pope Benedict concluded: ‘I express my gratitude for the efforts being made to address this problem responsibly, and I ask all of you to show your concern for the victims and solidarity with your priests.’”
Archbishop Bernard Longley added: “May these wise words help us to move forward and witness more effectively over the coming weeks of Lent to the loving presence of Christ. He is in the midst of this parish community of yours which he loves and will always guide. May he bless you and lead you safely to the joyful celebration of his resurrection this Easter.”