Shrewsbury ... shall be a name 'as stirring to the heart as the glories we have lost'

Blessed John Henry Newman, 1852

Letters and Homilies

Homily for the Blessing of the New Shrine of Our Lady, St Mary of the Angels, Hooton, Ellesmere Port, 23rd May 2017


This evening we dedicate a place of prayer, a place where peace is found. In the light of the hate-filled violence which last night erupted in the centre of Manchester finding such space for prayer becomes so necessary. We hold in our prayer this evening the victims of this atrocity together with all their families. We continue to pray for the police and emergency services in their vital work for public safety, and for those now caring for the injured in our hospitals. With church and religious leaders across the country, I invite you also to pray for peace and a strengthened solidarity in all our communities. Tonight, we will reflect on the fact that peace is first lost or found within the human heart, and will make this prayer for peace part of the dedication of this shrine to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In the face of terrorist atrocities proliferating across the world, Pope Francis often ponders the dark mystery of the human hatred and cruelty manifested in these senseless acts. The Pope always calls us to pray first and foremost for the victims, but also to pray that the Lord may change the hearts of those consumed by such hatred and violence.

This is the same message we find written in Scripture, where Saint James asks a question that has long troubled humanity: “Where do these wars and battles between yourselves first start?” The Apostle has no hesitation in pointing to the human heart, declaring “Isn’t it precisely in the desires fighting inside your own selves?” (James 4: 1). The homicidal hatred which stalks the streets of our cities must be restrained by all the forces of law and order. However, as Pope Francis reminds us, such hate and violence can only finally be overcome within the human heart. As Christ tells us, the peace which the world cannot give is a gift to be received (cf. John 14: 27).

Mindful of the sombre anniversaries of the Great War of 1914-1918, we recall how, in the midst of the hatred which divided humanity, that same message of peace was received by three children. It was a message that peace would only prevail in the world when it was first restored in the hearts of men and women.  Our Lady brought this message to them at Fatima in May 1917, just as the Church was engaged in nine days of continuous prayer for this peace. With impassioned appeals, the then Pope, Benedict XV, had written to the Catholics of the world calling them to prayer as a dark tide of hatred multiplied ruin and massacre across the world. Amid these fearful events, Our Lady invited the children to open their hearts to a universal love: a love without boundaries, the love of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit who loves us and desires all to be saved (cf. Pope Benedict XVI, Homily May 13th 2010).

In such prayer that we learn that it is never by closing our hearts that hate and violence are overcome, but always by opening our hearts much as the people of Manchester last night opening their doors to help others in their need. May we, too, be ready to open our hearts in prayer, charity and solidarity with one another. Such greatness of heart overcomes all that conspires to divide and strengthens the bonds between us.  Tonight, I dedicate this shrine in honour Mary, who shows us in her Immaculate Heart a human heart free of all sin and truly at peace; in memory of all the innocent victims of the hatred and violence of our time; and as a constant invitation to pray for peace in our world, a peace which begins in the heart of every man, woman and child.