Hope and praise for clergy at the heart of Bishop of Salford’s message in 2023 Chrism Mass

On Weds 5th April, priests and parishioners from across the dioceses of England & Wales gathered together to celebrate this year’s Mass of Sacred Chrism.

The Chrism Mass is one of the most solemn and beautiful Masses of the liturgical year, in which priests renew their vows of ordination, and the bishop blesses holy oils used in the anointing of the sick, the anointing of those about to be or newly baptised, and the anointing of priests. This day is also traditionally celebrated as a feast of the priesthood.

At the Chrism Mass in the Diocese of Salford, Bishop John Arnold turned to address his brother priests in his homily, commending them for their admirable response to a drastically changing world since the Covid pandemic.

Bishop John addresses brother priests at 2023 Chrism Mass

He said:” My dear brother priests, I can’t remember any mention of the word pandemic in any pastoral course I undertook in my seminary training. And I don’t think I hear the word during the first 35 years of my priestly ministry. But then suddenly, it was there. It was the word, that was directing our lives, dictating to us how we might minister as priests, how we had to adjust. Who would ever have thought in our lifetime, that our churches would be closed down, that we would be isolated from one another, that people couldn’t come to Mass.

“Extraordinary times. And I appreciate very much the initiatives that you showed in building up that sense of community in a different way in your parishes, in your ministries. Making sure people were in touch with one another, that the isolated weren’t left alone. It was really courageous of you and thank you for all that you did.

“And I’m sure there were costs too. That sense of being isolated. So many of our parishes now being one-priest parishes, we were alone. I was alone.”

Bishop John continued to reflect on our lives as we emerge from the pandemic, observing that we – as a Church – cannot simply turn back the clock and go back to how things were, but we must evolve to meet the changing needs of our world today.

He said: “So, it’s time for us to see a challenge. A challenge as to what we need to be now as priests in a changing world. What our people expect of us and for which they are so grateful to us in our ministry. How might we rethink things. Pope Francis is so clear, isn’t he, about each and every one of us having our part to play, but we are in a changing world, where we need to think globally. We need to see where do the Gospel values fit in this 21st century. How are we best able to promote and encourage people in faith?”

With these words, Bishop John went on to formally announce the launch of our own diocesan synod to help pave the way for a renewed community in a post-pandemic world.

Inviting each and every one of us to join him on this journey, Bishop John described the synod as a quiet, prayerful process in which we will all work together to discern what it is the Spirit is calling our diocesan Church to be.

Bishop John ended his homily with an invitation of hope and personal mission: to take up our role in upholding, celebrating, and sharing the Gospel values that are at the very heart of our vocation as Christians in our world today.

Click here to read Bishop John’s homily in full.