Sermon from Bernard Longley Archbishop of Birmingham

In his homily, Archbishop Bernard Longley said: “This is a truly joyful day for it witnesses a moment of recognition and gratitude on the part of the Catholic Church for the dedication of two men of faith for whom our city of Birmingham is their home and the base for their work. This is also a unique and historical moment in the life of this Cathedral and in the experience of the Catholic Church in England and Wales and perhaps further afield.

“It is very fitting that Bhai Sahib Bhai Dr Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia and Mr Bill Ozanne are receiving Papal Knighthoods from His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI on the same occasion and in the same ceremony of investiture. Over a friendship of many years they have discovered not only within each other, but also within the faith traditions that they represent, an openness to dialogue and a desire to deepen understanding and co-operation for the common good.

“They have both personally committed considerable time and energy to the goals of interfaith understanding and of common witness to shared values. But they have also encouraged and enabled the Sikh and Christian traditions to make progress along the pathway from mutual respect towards the deeper insights that friendship brings. They have prompted us to work more closely together in service of others.”

The Archbishop continued: “I believe that it is the first time that a Papal Honour has been bestowed in this way on a spiritual leader from within the Sikh community. It represents the Holy Father’s recognition of Bhai Sahib Bhai’s deeply held desire for fruitful and lasting relations between Sikhs and Catholics and opportunities to witness together.

“We recall Bhai Sahib Bhai’s presence in Assisi for the international meetings of faith leaders at the invitation of Blessed Pope John Paul II and of Pope Benedict – and I am sure that he will long remember being present with Mandla-ji in St Peter’s Square at the funeral of Blessed John Paul II during April 2005.”

Archbishop Bernard Longley stressed: “Nothing could have given greater pleasure to Mr Bill Ozanne than to be receiving this Papal Knighthood alongside Bhai Sahib Bhai, for this moment becomes symbolic of Bill’s own vision for interfaith dialogue and witnesses to his long commitment to this important work of the Church.”

Archbishop Bernard Longley concluded his homily: “The faith communities in this city are often among the first to recognise emerging social needs within our local communities. We want to develop effective partnerships among ourselves and with other agencies wherever appropriate to help meet these needs. May today’s celebration encourage us to continue along the pathway of this commitment not only for the good of our own faith communities but for the common good.”

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