Around 1500 Catholics from the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle gathered in Durham Cathedral – the Shrine of St Cuthbert – at the weekend to celebrate and witness to their faith. Rt Rev Seamus Cunningham, Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, preached during a service of Evening Prayer at which Catholics and Anglicans joined in worship. Bishop Cunningham said:
“Both Sts. Cuthbert and Bede, reflecting the beatitudes, died in poverty and peace. We are told that Cuthbert died leaving behind a few half-gnawed raw onions – his only sustenance in his last days – and a shroud for his burial. St. Bede, when he was dying, gave away all he possessed – a few grains of incense, a little pepper and a small piece of white linen. This is a powerful message to us to cling to the right values as we face the challenges of our consumer culture and keep our eyes on the things that truly matter. Christ, Cuthbert and Bede, offer a new way of building our world on foundation stones of a happiness that does not depend on what you possess; an ability to share grief and to feel the pain of others; a readiness to be gentle, merciful and peaceful even in the face of ridicule and opposition. These are the foundations on which we build a better world, a saner world, a just world – the kingdom of God here and now.”
The gathering at Durham Cathedral was the last of seven pilgrimages being made by people of the diocese to mark the Year of Faith. The Year was opened by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on 11 October 2012 and will be closed by Pope Francis on 24 November 2013. The Durham Cathedral pilgrimage included a procession, prayers at the tombs of St Bede and St Cuthbert, a sung service of Evening Prayer and a homily given by Bishop Cunningham.
Sr Michel Lee is a member of the Diocesan Evangelisation Team that organised the pilgrimage and said: “The gathering exceeded all our expectations and made for a joy-filled and profound united act of worship. We are grateful to the Cathedral for their warm and generous welcome. It was a beautiful way to end our pilgrimage of faith during this important Year of Faith.”
Twelve icons of the Northern Saints painted by Catholics in the diocese formed a centre piece during the service of Evening Prayer. The icons feature: SS Cuthbert and Aidan, SS Benet Biscop and Bede, St Wilfrid and St Oswald, St John Boste, St. Robert of Newminster, St. Hilda, St Godric, St Ethelbert and St Edwin. A brief service of light and incensing the altar and icons preceded the Reading from Bede’s Life of Cuthbert. The Gospel reading was Matthew’s account of the Beatitudes which propose a different way of living. At the Shrine of Cuthbert a joint blessing was given by the Dean and the Bishop with pilgrims commissioned to go forward in faith to live the Gospel in our own times.
The pilgrimage coincided with the exhibition of the ‘Lindisfarne Gospels Durham’, staged on Durham’s World Heritage Site in Palace Green Library. Some of the most precious objects from Anglo Saxon England have been gathered together to tell one of North East England’s most enduring stories about our famous saint, Cuthbert. The centre piece of the exhibition is the Lindisfarne Gospels, one of the world’s most precious books. It is on loan to Durham from the British Library until 30 September 2013.
You can read or download Bishop Cunningham’s Homily by clicking the link in the top right-hand corner of this article.