Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Papal election anniversary

Today is the seventh anniversary of the election of the Pope to the throne of St Peter.

If his birthday last Monday is an opportunity to celebrate his personal achievements as atheologian and as an individual, today is the occasion to give heartfelt thanks for all he has achieved in the past seven years.



The Pope has brought all his theological and spiritual insights to the Apostolic See, travelled extensively, sought to bring within the fold of the Church those who were outside its boundaries through initiatives such as the ordinariate and, hopefully, from the latest rumours, members of SSPX, and sought to reconcile conflicts over the liturgy both by establishing the right to the Extraordinary Form and to regulate liturgical practice by both act and example.

He hasspoken clearly and cogently on moral issues and confronted the abuse scandal, seeking to cleanse the church of thos problem. He has also addresssed the modern and materialist world challenging it, as well as the faithful, to turn to Christ. He continues to write, notably Jesus of Nazareth, and by all these things to proclaim the Gospel and the Kingdom of God. Not bad going for someone starting a new task at 78.

I vividly remember the hearing of his election just before the 6 pm Mass at the Oratory here in Oxford - the first celebrated I suspect in the city under his pontificate. After the singing of the Te Deum I went to look for friends with whom to celebrate. In the course of looking for them I almost literally ran into a well known academic whom I know and asked him if he had heard the news. "Yes" was his reply "Terrible. It's the end of the Catholic Church." I told him I disagreed and sped on my errand. Seven years on I disagree all the more - and so does the verdict of contemporary history.

The task facing the Pope and his successors is immense, problems and difficulties abound, and the future unknown - but so it was for St Peter and for all his successors. Today we have very great and good reasons for thanking God for Pope Benedict and praying that he will be given time and strength to continue his work as a humble labourer in the Lord's vineyard.

Ad multos annos!

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