Page last updated at 12:42 GMT, Thursday, 21 May 2009 13:42 UK

Catholic leader in dialogue call


Most Reverend Vincent Nichols is installed as Archbishop of Westminster

The new leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales has called for "creative conversation" among all the faiths.

The Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols spoke as he was installed at Westminster Cathedral before an audience of 2,000 people.

The 63-year-old becomes the 11th holder of the office.

Earlier he said it took "courage" for Catholic church members who abused children to face up to their actions.

In a sermon after his installation the new leader of an estimated 4.2 million Roman Catholics in England and Wales said people needed to respect each other's faiths, and engage in "respectful dialogue".

Catholicism has a very human face - we're clearly able to laugh at ourselves
The Most Reverend Vincent Nichols

He added: "This dialogue needs to go beyond the superficial and the slogans. Respectful dialogue is crucial today and I salute all who seek to engage in it."

He said the media had an important part to play "not by accentuating difference and conflict, but by enhancing creative conversation.

"Let us be a society in which we genuinely listen to each other, in which sincere disagreement is not made out to be insult or harassment, in which reasoned principles are not construed as prejudice."

Attending the ceremony was the leader of the Church of England, the Most Reverend Rowan Williams, who said relations between the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches had become "closer and warmer".

Dr Williams added: "The fact the archbishops have been able to meet is a welcome development, and a sign that we all recognise common challenges and the need to play and act together."

Earlier, the new Archbishop of Westminster risked controversy on his first day in office when he said a report revealing the church's knowledge that sex offenders had repeatedly abused children while working in Ireland's church and state-run institutions would "overshadow" the good they had done.

'Tough road'

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live before his installation he defended his comments as "perfectly sensible" and insisted that perpetrators must confront what they did and be held to account.

"It is a tough road to take, to face up to our own weaknesses," he said.

"That is certainly true of anyone who's deceived themselves that all they've been doing is taking a bit of comfort from children."

Despite being viewed by many in the church as ambitious, he told the BBC he viewed himself as a "fairly normal, average chap".

He added: "I would really love to continue the perception that Catholicism has a very human face, that we're clearly able to laugh at ourselves, that we are actually not afraid of being criticised and we are not going to get on a high horse."

John Wilkins, former editor of Catholic weekly newspaper The Tablet, said the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols had always been a "high-flyer", having shone in the key post of general secretary of the Catholic Bishop's Conference in London.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols
The Most Reverend Vincent Nichols will lead an estimated 4.2m Catholics.

"He believes in doing things rather than talking and offering sympathy. He will probably be tough," said Mr Wilkins, adding that the new archbishop would strongly promote the Vatican's views.

The installation Mass was attended by clergy from the Archdioceses of Westminster and Birmingham, where he was archbishop for nine years, as well as lay representatives from parishes, schools and Catholic organisations.

The archbishop's predecessor, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, 76, handed over the crozier - or Bishop's staff, which is symbolic of his office - to the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols after the Papal mandate confirming the appointment was read aloud.

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor was the first Archbishop of Westminster to retire in post since the restoration of the Catholic hierarchy in the mid-19th Century.

The newly installed Archbishop will face an uphill struggle
Ann Cairns, Edinburgh

As well as Dr Williams, the Archbishop of York, the Most Reverend John Sentamu, and the Bishop of London, the Right Reverend Richard Chartres, represented the Church of England.

The Prince of Wales was represented at the Mass by General Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank, the Catholic peer and former UK Chief of Defence Staff, while Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy represented the Prime Minister.

Senior Roman Catholic hierarchy attending included Cardinal Sean Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, and Cardinal Keith O'Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh.

Music was specially written for the occasion by leading Scottish composer James MacMillan and Colin Mawby, a former master of music at Westminster Cathedral.

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Catholic News Faith cannot be private, says new archbishop of Westminster - 15 hrs ago
CathNews Nichols installed as Westminster archbishop - 21 hrs ago
Catholic Herald Archbishop calls for new dialogue in Britain - 30 hrs ago
Telegraph Archbishop of Westminster attacks secularists - 33 hrs ago
America Magazine Archbishop Nichols comes home to Westminster - 35 hrs ago

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