Installation Homily: Archbishop Mark O’Toole

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Archbishop Mark O’Toole has been installed the eight Archbishop of Cardiff in St David’s Cathedral.


When I first told my mother about the appointment to both the Archdiocese of Cardiff and the Diocese of Menevia, she said, “It will mean you have to love God and the people more.”  

Indeed, the mystery of love, a description of God’s very self, has exercised a magnetic pull over my heart since the age of 17. God loves us, and desires us, in calling us.  He invites us into His life.  He gives us His Son to guide us.  To be our way. To be our Shepherd.  Jesus, the Beloved, is the One who beckons, who draws each of us onward, to follow Him.

I believe this is the only way to understand what it means for the Archdiocese of Cardiff and the Diocese of Menevia to be united in personi episcopi, in the person of the bishop.  In his letter the Holy Father helps us understand this.  This appointment is more than a clever ecclesiastical solution to the challenge of numbers and resources.  We know we cannot keep doing the things we have always done and hope for different results.  Yet our lives are not fundamentally about the next pastoral plan or project.  What we do together – and it has to be together that we move forward – is only possible because at the centre of our life, is a person, the person of Jesus Christ.  Only when we are grounded and rooted in Him do we build on firm foundations.  Indeed, what is the point of bringing two dioceses together in the person of the bishop, if this has no real impact on how we each respond to the Lord’s love, and try to help others discover and love Him, too.

We see the impact of the Lord’s love on St Peter in the Gospel which has just been proclaimed.  Peter articulates the Risen Jesus’ love for him three times, deepening each time his sense that he belongs to the Lord.  The first two times that he asks if Peter loves him, Jesus uses the word ‘agape’, describing sacrificial love, the love that endures no matter what.  When Peter responds he always says he loves Jesus with a filial love (filos) – a love which is that of friendship, the love which is an engagement of the heart, as well as of the will.  So often when reflecting on this, preachers will say that it is a sign of the journey which Peter has yet to make, from the love of friendship to sacrificial loving.  

There is, of course, a great truth in this.  Peter will follow the Lord to the Cross.  But I believe there is something equally profound going on here, too.  For the third time that he asks Peter, if he loves him, Jesus also uses this word about filial love.  The Lord recognises that for Peter to come into Jesus’ sacrificing love, Peter will also need to experience the deep love of the Lord’s friendship.  Only such a love will sustain Peter in the challenges that lie ahead.

Surely it is the same for us.  So today, I ask – how might each of us discover that we are a beloved one of Jesus and that he wants an intimate and deep friendship with us?  How might we be filled once more with enthusiasm and energy for Him?

On a practical level, I have been delighted to hear since I came, that Wales aspires to be the first Nation of Sanctuary.  This is an expression of the love of God, too, manifested in the love that the people of Wales have for men, women and children from all over the world who have been forced to flee their homes.

I am so grateful for the presence of some of our ecumenical and civic leaders here today.  With our inter-faith partners, and with all people of goodwill, we want to work together, even in little or small ways, to build up places of sanctuary in our churches and in our communities.  

Today, I would also like to thank you, the lay faithful, the Religious, consecrated persons, the deacons, seminarians and the priests of the Archdiocese of Cardiff.   I am grateful for your warm welcome.  I realise I have much to learn from all of you, and I look forward to getting to know you and working with you.  To my brother priests of the Archdiocese – how good it is to address you like that –  thank you for your fidelity to the Lord’s call.  Your priestly life is a priority for me.

Yn awr ychydig eiriau yn hen iaith y Cymry, gan erfyn arnoch faddau os byddaf yn camynganu ein iaith. 

Diolch yn fawr am eich croeso cynnes.  Yn wir, “Croeso” yw’r gair dwi wedi ei glywed yn amlaf ers i mi gyrraedd.  Mae’r gair hwn yn siarad â fi o ysbryd hael y wlad hon gyda’i gwreiddiau ysbrydol dwfn.  Ehangu’r croeso hwn yw ein dymuniad – i fod yn lloches.  Uchelgais mawr yw hwn, sydd â’i wreiddiau yn ein hanes Cristnogol ym mywydau ac esiampl Dewi Sant a’r seintiau Celtaidd niferus.  Rwyf mor falch bod y cerflun ein Harglwyddes o Aberteifi, wedi dod o’r Gysegrfan Genedlaethol i fod yma heddiw. Boed iddi oleuo ein llwybr wrth ddilyn ei Mab, Iesu Grist. A fo ben bid bont.  Mae pregethu a thystio Dewi Sant wedi llunio egwyddorion a diwylliant y genedl hon, gan ei gwreiddio yng ngoleuni a gwirionedd yr Efengyl.  Heddiw, rwy’n defnyddio fel geiriau fy hun, geiriau olaf Dewi Sant, 

“Gwnewch y pethau bychain!  Byddwch lawen a chedwch eich ffydd a’ch cred”.

Rydym yn gwneud y pethau bychain gyda chariad mawr at yr Arglwydd, ac mewn gwasanaeth i’n brodyr a chwiorydd.  “A minnau a gerddaf y ffordd yr aeth ein tadau iddi.” 

Gweddïwch drosof a bendith Duw ar Gymru!

Pope Francis encourages us to remember three phrases every day – ‘Thank you’; ‘Please forgive me’, and ‘I love you’. All too often, we leave them to the last moments of our life.  I would like to begin with them now.

Thank you to Archbishop George who has given such faithful service here these past eleven years.  Archbishop George, it is good to know that you will be nearby and willing to be a wise elder brother.  I thank, too, the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Guegerotti, who has been so encouraging these past months since I first heard the surprising news of my appointment to these two dioceses.  Excellency, through you, I express the fidelity we all have to our Holy Father, Pope Francis.

In asking forgiveness, I would like to address some important people.  I am acutely aware that there may be people here in the Cathedral today or watching online who will have been wronged within the Church, hurt or wounded by one of the Church’s ministers.  For this, I am truly sorry.  I invite you to share your story – please believe you will receive a compassionate response, be listened to and taken seriously.   

And finally, the phrase ‘I love you’.  “Gyda Chariad Duw yn fy nghalon.  With the love of God in my heart”.  These were the first words I spoke in sitting on the Archbishop’s Chair today.  I ask for the intercession of St Alban, St Julius and St Aaron, whose feast day we celebrate, that my love for God may be manifest in my love for the people of Wales and Herefordshire.  May we all be strengthened by the witness of these saints who had the courage to lay down their lives in love of the Lord’s flock.  We commend ourselves to them, and to Mary, Our Lady of the Taper. May she indeed light the path ahead and lead us to her Son.

+Mark O’Toole