The Archbishop of Southwark, Most Rev John Wilson gave the following homily in St George’s Cathedral, Southwark during the Racial Justice Sunday Mass on 13 February 2022.
Dear brothers and sisters, I don’t know who is more excited about today – me or Father Victor. I hope we’re all a little bit excited about this great celebration of the Holy Mass, but also with a focus today on our unity in Christ, our oneness in Christ.
It is an absolute joy to be able to welcome you to our cathedral today. our cathedral. It belongs to all of us.
We are people of different nationalities, people of different heritage together and only together we form parts of that wonderful mosaic that God has created, which we call humanity, which in the church we call the body of Christ.
We are one in Christ and one with each other.
You are my brother and my sister. We are brothers and sisters of each other.
And so on this Sunday when we focus especially on racial justice, we give thanks first to Almighty God for the rich and beautiful diversity of peoples and cultures which make up our world which make up our communities which make up this Archdiocese. I am proud to be the Bishop of a diocese that is so diverse and so rich.
Today, we affirm and celebrate the gift of every human life. Every human life, from its first moment in conception to its natural end at death. When the Lord Jesus commanded us to love one another he made no exceptions.
And neither can we. Neither should we.
When the Lord Jesus speaks about God’s kingdom in the Gospel we heard today, he announces a radical inversion of values.
Those who are poor, hungry, sorrowful, those oppressed. Those who so often in our world, have no value and no voice. These are the ones who are great in the kingdom of God.
What an important lesson this is for us to learn and to keep learning for how we live, the weakest, the poorest, those the world thinks as nothing. These are the ones who are great in the kingdom.
Our archdiocese is marvellously diverse. People in our parishes and schools represent a rich variety of culture of ethnic and racial backgrounds, from every country across the world.
There is a place for everyone in our church. And if you don’t like that, there’s the door.
You might think I’m joking. I’m not – there is a place for everyone in our church.
The diversity that we are is a gift.
The Catechism teaches us every form of social or cultural discrimination in fundamental rights on the grounds of sex, race, colour, social conditions, language or religion must be eradicated as incompatible with God’s design, to put it straightforwardly racism is incompatible with our faith.
There is and they can not be any place for racism, no place. But our faith does more than this. Our faith calls it calls us to be prophetic in our world.
To speak out with the values of God’s Kingdom to challenge racism, to eliminate its causes to heal the wounds it brings. And we each of us my brothers and sisters have a place to play in this, by making sure we think of every other person as someone worthy of respect by holding the rights and the equality and the sanctity of every human life and it is with great joy that in our diocese, we established our commission for promoting racial and cultural inclusion with Father Victor as its Episcopal vicar and it’s already working. It’s already making a difference to our parishes and our schools to challenge racism in all its forms.
Dear friends, if we think that racism is a thing of the past, then suddenly we need to think again.
It’s a present reality in our communities.
I was shocked the year before last I met with a group of young women young students from a school in our diocese, and I was shocked to listen to their experience of racism.
Through comments through insults through slurs through discrimination, alive and present today.
Racism is not a thing of the past, and therefore we cannot be silent about it. We cannot be silent about its existence, and we cannot be silent about its causes.
We must unite in Christ with other people of goodwill. We must unite in Christ, to work for justice. To speak out for equality for every person no matter what the colour of their skin is, no matter what language they speak. No matter where they come from, no matter what they look like.
My friends, it is our mission to continue to make our parishes and schools places where the gifts and the skills and the experience and the heritage of all people of every background honoured and valued and cherished and celebrated.
We will work to make our parishes and communities places where everyone is welcome where everyone is affirmed where everyone is encouraged. Where everyone is respected for the person God has created them to be and the person God is calling them to be.
We have in our church some inspiring examples of people who have spoken out, spoken out against slavery and work to overcome the sufferings of those enslaved. I want to name just two today. There are many others we need to learn of them because they’re truly inspirational.
The first is perhaps more familiar to us.
Josephine Bakhita, a Sudanese woman sold into slavery and eventually brought to Rome where she was cared for by a community of religious sisters.
And she developed her own Christian faith and joined a religious community. She was such an outstanding example of what it means to live the values of the kingdom that in the year 2000 She was made a saint – Saint Josephine Bakhita.
I think of someone perhaps very few of us maybe only one other in this church today will know the name of Sister Dorothy Stang.
An American Sister of Notre Dame, who was martyred 17 years ago yesterday, the 12th of February 2005.
Why was she martyred? Because she upheld the rights and the dignity of indigenous peoples in Brazil.
The voices of all those in our church who have defended and protected people of different racial and cultural backgrounds, those voices must be alive in us. They must be.
Are we one in Christ? nGive me some nodding heads please.
Are we one in Christ? We are one in Christ who is risen. Christ who is risen, who has overcome death, who has conquered sin and therefore we are people of hope. Are we not – people of hope? And as people as hope, one in Christ, we are committed to working side by side to consign racism to history.
And so, we pledge today, to continue journeying together into the future.
One in Christ and one with each other.
Watch the homily: www.facebook.com/ArchdioceseOfSouthwark/videos/1104318056808474
Watch the Mass on Southwark Cathedral Youtube channel: www.youtube.com/watch?v=62sIuHPSbIU