The Archbishop of Canterbury has said that the Year of Mercy has “caught the imagination” of all Christians in a homily at Westminster Cathedral for the closing of the Door of Mercy.
Archbishop Justin Welby joined Cardinal Vincent Nichols at Vespers on Sunday. It was the first time the Anglican leader had preached at the Cathedral. Also present were bishops from throughout England and Wales, members of the Chapter of Canons, and other ecumenical guests.
“The Year of Mercy has caught the imagination not only in the Catholic Church but in all churches,” Archbishop Welby said. He cited Blessed John XXIII’s “visionary address” to the Second Vatican Council, in which the pope spoke of the Holy Spirit helping the Church move away from “acting in severity against error and sin to acting in mercy”.
“This great Year of Mercy 50 years after the end of the Council has been received as water in the desert for global churches sadly lacking mercy, and must be offered as the way of living to a world which sees mercy only in terms of exchange, and never as the excess of abundant love,” the archbishop said.
Mercy was a “word of immense beauty”, he said, and “when we walk through the Door of Mercy and allow its meaning to enter our hearts we become different people . . . It works in us like a benevolent acid, dissolving the hardness of our hearts and the selfishness
of our lives.”
The archbishop added: “The Door of Mercy calls us through, but like the doors into Narnia in the CS Lewis series, what we find on the other side of the door is another world, where the deep magic of the Kingdom of God is what prevails.”
Archbishop Welby also described the frequent absence of mercy in everyday life.
“Whether it is in elections and referendums, or in the international politics of refugees, of trade and commerce, and even in our own lives and expressions through social media, mercy is often absent,” he said.
The Door of Mercy at Westminster Cathedral was opened by Cardinal Nichols last December and has stayed open throughout the Year of Mercy, receiving pilgrims from around the country.
The Jubilee Year will conclude on Sunday when Pope Francis will close the Holy Door at St Peter’s Basilica.
Meanwhile, in a separate address to head teachers last week, Archbishop Welby said Government officials knew so little about religion that
conservative Evangelicals would be counted as extremists by the officials’ own definition.
The Government, he said, could see no difference between Muslim extremists and traditionalist Christians, so both groups were dismissed as “a bit bonkers”. He made the remarks to headteachers of Church of England schools in the Anglican Diocese of Bath and Wells.
The Telegraph quoted Archbishop Welby as saying: “Our Government generally is desperately trying to catch up, to understand a world in which they have no grip on what it is to be religious at all; where religious illiteracy is prevalent and extremely destructive of understanding and where they can’t really see the difference between an extremist Muslim group like the Muslim Brotherhood and a sort of conservative Evangelical group in a Church of England church.”
He added: “It’s fine to reject many of the things done in the name of religion, but you still need to understand what it is that can so catch hold of someone that they think life itself is not worth living if that contradicts what they believe.”