The Easter Season comes to an end with the Celebration of the Feast of Pentecost this weekend. Pentecost is not only for us a commemoration of the Descent of the Holy Spirit and a Celebration of the birth of the Church but also the birth (opening) of our Cathedral 51 years ago. Archbishop Malcolm will preside at the Solemn Mass and take part in the afternoon Two Cathedrals Service at 3pm along with the other church leaders on Merseyside. The afternoon service begins at Liverpool Cathedral with a short service of the word followed by the procession along Hope Street concluding with a reading, blessing and alleluia chorus on the Cathedral Piazza and steps. Following the visit of St John Paul II in 1982 when he walked from our Cathedral to our sister Anglican Cathedral, we have kept this tradition alive of having a joint Ecumenical Service at Pentecost and walking together along Hope Street as a witness and sign of our unity. In recent years it has become more of a festival occasion and it is always a joyful occasion for all to join in, whether for all or just part of the service and procession.
Last year at the time of the Manchester bombing I was staying for a few days on the Island of Barra in the Outer Hebrides. It seemed a universe away from the tragic events that unfolded at the concert in Manchester but it was announced the next day that a 14 year old girl, Eilidh McLeod, from the island had been killed at the concert and her friend, who was with her, was seriously injured and in hospital. The whole Island attended a special Mass that evening to pray for them and their families.
In order to commemorate the anniversary of this tragic event, when 22 people were killed and more than 60 have been left with lifelong injuries, there will be a special service being held at Manchester Cathedral on Tuesday afternoon. We have been asked to screen a live relay of the service within our Cathedral for those who would wish to take part but would find it more convenient to come here or that may find a return to Manchester at this time would be too difficult to face.
It was on this Feast of Pentecost in 1982, only a year after he had been shot in an assassination attempt, that Saint John Paul celebrated Mass in our Cathedral as part of his pastoral visit to this country. The whole visit was a wonderful and inspiring time for our city and church. He won the hearts of all, especially the young by his words and sheer joy in his proclamation of the gospel. His was one of the longest pontificates of recent times and he led the church into the third millennium encouraging us to ‘open the doors to Christ, do not be afraid of Him’.
As we keep this feast this weekend we recall his witness and example of service and love of Christ and his church and we ask his intercession so that the Holy Spirit will guide us through the challenges we face at this time.
Canon Anthony O’Brien