Government’s Rwanda asylum plan is lacking in compassion, says Cardinal in Easter Vigil Homily

The Archbishop of Westminster has criticised the government’s Rwanda asylum plan as lacking in compassion and regard for the dignity of human beings.

Speaking inWestminster Cathedral last night, HE Cardinal Vincent Nichols said that whilst the world is “so marked by generosity and compassion” but we are also troubled by “vengeance and hostility”

Wars disfigure our world. We live, today, under renewed threat, while the destruction of violence wrecks millions of lives, in Ukraine, in every theatre of conflict,” said the Cardinal.

“We see more than an echo of the Exodus in the millions of people who move across the face of our earth, some fleeing violence, others poverty, or the effects of climate change. We see them exploited by people smugglers and by those who traffic them into modern slavery, crimes which we must combat.

“We know the huge challenges there are, internationally, in finding responses to this issue, responses that must match the desire to help with the limited resources on which there are so many calls. We pray for those whose aim each day is just to survive.”

And in a clear reference to the government’s Rwanda asylum plan, His Eminence asked that: “those who seek solutions do so with compassion, and with regard for the dignity which is innate to every human being.

“This week’s policy announcement simply lacks these qualities,” he added.

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Full text of the Cardinal’s Homily:

Given at the Easter Vigil, 16th April 2022, at Westminster Cathedral

My brothers and sisters, there is such joy in our being here tonight. For two long years in the face of the pandemic we have stayed apart. But in these days of Holy Week, this Cathedral has again been full, even as it is this evening.  Here I have sensed among us all a fresh attentiveness, an eagerness to be together again. It is, I believe, an eagerness born of longing, the eagerness that marks the meeting between loved ones who have been too long separated, through this time of isolation and bereavement.

Tonight, there are two images that focus our attention: the candle and the cross. They are two great banners for us to carry, two emblems, two trophies to raise. With them we can find our way, stepping confidently forward, with sensitivity, courage and keen insight.

First, the candle, the Easter Candle. It shines out to proclaim the best of all news – that Christ is risen. Tonight, our readings place that Good News in the context of the history of our salvation. We have spent time listening to this great narrative of God’s plan for his people. In doing so we can weave into each step something of our own story too, with our hardships, joys and anxieties.

In the first reading, we heard of our origins, our deepest ancestry, the source of our lives. Then, as we listened to the escape of people from slavery, perhaps we happened to recall the moments of danger through which we have lived, too, when all seemed lost. And no story is complete without its treasured intimacy, the love song of our lives, the yearnings of the heart, the cleansing waters of love. We heard of them in Ezekiel and maybe brought to mind our own beloved.

Yet there is more. As we move through this Vigil, we can also think of our world, so marked by generosity and compassion, and yet also by vengeance and hostility. Wars disfigure our world. We live, today, under renewed threat, while the destruction of violence wrecks millions of lives, in Ukraine, in every theatre of conflict. We see more than an echo of the Exodus in the millions of people who move across the face of our earth, some fleeing violence, others poverty, or the effects of climate change. We see them exploited by people smugglers and by those who traffic them into modern slavery, crimes which we must combat. We know the huge challenges there are, internationally, in finding responses to this issue, responses that must match the desire to help with the limited resources on which there are so many calls. We pray for those whose aim each day is just to survive. And we pray that those who seek solutions do so with compassion, and with regard for the dignity which is innate to every human being. This week’s policy announcement simply lacks these qualities. The reflections of our Vigil this evening are not all comfortable.

So it is all the more important that we firmly grasp the candle, the light of Christ, allowing him to illumine our steps, so that we choose them carefully, no longer crashing into the furniture or fumbling in the dark for what we are seeking. In the symbolic action of our Liturgy, we have seen this light overcome the darkness. The light of Christ is for us a source of unconquerable hope. In him our future is secure.

The words of Pope Gregory the Great have echoed throughout this week:

‘The body that lay lifeless in the tomb is ours. The body that rose again on the third day is ours. The body that ascended above all the heights of heaven to the right hand of the Father’s glory is ours…We too are to rise and share his glory.’

The second emblem we grasp is, of course, the cross of Christ. Yesterday we venerated a simple cross made of wood, a symbol of his suffering, and therefore of ours too. Tonight, the great cross adorned with precious stones, garnished with gold, is restored to its place behind the altar. The cross is transformed into a symbol of his victory, and ours too.

And so it should be, because the cross represents the radical victory of Christ in the wretched and ancient struggle between good and evil, a struggle in which we are caught up and, without exception, wounded and scarred. With our grasp firmly on the cross of Jesus, we live through suffering, whatever form it takes, knowing its deeper purpose. We keep our eyes fixed on the promise of our loving Creator, a promise that goes beyond all human expectation and is an invitation to enter new life.

The Gospel proclamation is unambiguous: ‘Why do you look among the dead? He is not here; he is risen!’ That is our lesson, carried in the candle and the cross. Do not seek answers where they cannot be found. Look to him alone who on this night opens up the royal road for us to take on our pilgrimage of life.

He is our sure foundation and hope. That is the road we take. As St Paul tells us, we strive to be not only dead to sin but alive to God, in Christ Jesus. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen. Alleluia.

A very happy Easter to you all.

✠ Cardinal Vincent Nichols
Archbishop of Westminster

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Courtesy Diocese of Westminster

Photo: Marcin Mazur/CBCEW.org.uk

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