Tuesday thought: The Pope comes as the focal point of unity worldwide Father Richard McKay
A MAN who builds bridges. No, not a civil engineer, but a bishop. Not using steel and concrete, but community and relationships: the Bishop of Rome, Pope Benedict XVI, who soon comes to our shores.
He comes as the focal point of unity for a worldwide church, the one bishop in the world whose care extends into every nation and culture. The word Catholic is not a title or label for the church but a description of what we must be – universal in our care, our welcome, our thinking, our attitudes. The Pope is the bishop for the whole world.
When he comes to England and Scotland next month, he carries with him our brothers and sisters from all the world's continents. He is our bridge that unites us to each other. In welcoming him, we welcome our African brothers, our Asian sisters, our Latin American children, our North American young people, our European families and Australian communities. That is why one of the main titles or role descriptions for the Pope is Supreme Pontiff. It's from Latin and means the greatest bridge builder.
In my Bristol inner-city parish of St Nicholas of Tolentino, we are very conscious of his role as the bridge builder, because we have people from every continent of the world gathering Sunday by Sunday in our church. As individuals and as a parish family, we support many people and projects around the world. The Pope coming helps us touch something at the heart of our faith – we are to have a universal heart, a universal love reaching into the world of poverty and deprivation, oppression and injustice here and everywhere. Charity might begin at home but it must never remain there if it is truly charity, which means love. So this bridge builder ensures that the Catholic Church is there in Pakistan among the flood victims bringing much-needed, urgent aid; ensures that 25 per cent of all the healthcare in Africa and Latin America is provided by the Catholic Church; ensures that the immense number of Catholic schools around the world open doors of opportunity and learning for impoverished children.
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Benedict the bridge builder helps us to build a better world, of justice, equality and sharing. In welcoming him we are welcoming all our brothers and sisters around the world – especially the poorest.
Father Richard McKay is parish priest of St Nicholas of Tolentino at Lawford's Gate in Bristol. The parish community is the most diverse in the Clifton Diocese with parishioners from more than 60 countries worldwide. Pope Benedict XVI visits the United Kingdom from September 16-19. There will be a special evening of prayers in Clifton Cathedral on Pembroke Road on the eve of the papal visit, September 15.