After much preparation and anticipation, Centenary Day has finally arrived here in the Archdiocese of Cardiff. Exactly 100 years ago today Pope Benedict XV erected the Province of Wales and established the Metropolitan See of Cardiff. Much has happened in the past 100 years, but whilst we give thanks to Almighty God for the those who have built up the Diocese and gone before us, we look to the future and trust in the Grace of God.
Representatives from every parish in the Diocese gathered at Belmont Abbey for a Mass of Thanksgiving led by Archbishop George Stack. He was joined by the Bishops of the suffragan Dioceses of the Province – Bishop Tom Burns of Menevia and Bishop Peter Brignall of Wrexham. Also concelebrating were Abbot Paul Stonham of Belmont and Abbot Geoffrey Scott of Douai whose communities played significant roles in the establishment of the Diocese. Various other clergy from around the Diocese were also present.
The Mass was a splendid occasion and the entire congregation sang with gusto throughout the Mass. The Entrance Procession arrived to “Christ is made the sure foundation”; a reminder that through the history of the Catholic Church in this part of the world, Christ’s present has been foremost in bringing us to this historic day. The monks of Belmont provided a beautiful reflective environment during the Mass with their various chants.
Abbot Paul Stonham preached. Giving the congregation a short ‘history lesson’ on the background of the Diocese. Ours is a unique Diocese in that we extend across territorial boundaries between Wales and England. People have often wondered why Herefordshire is attached to the Archdiocese of Cardiff, Abbot Paul eloquently reminded everyone present of the roots. The history of the Church in Wales and Herefordshire goes way beyond the past 100 years. We have to look back to the Early Church and the periods of Saints David, Dyfrig, Illtyd and Teilo. Historic saints for the Church here in Wales, founding Fathers if you will. St Dyfrig was born a short distance from Belmont Abbey itself. Whilst the Anglican Communion redrew diocesan boundaries in the Medieval period separating Herefordshire and Wales, Herefordshire coming under the Province of Canterbury no less, the Catholic Church chose to remain with the old Celtic boundaries established by the founding Fathers. Herefordshire and Wales are joined together with a deep spiritual bond that is unbreakable even though a river that forms a border between Wales and England separates the two.
There has been much to give thanks for on this historic and momentous day. And there is much to commend to Almighty God about our future. Abbot Paul referred to the ‘Elephant in the Room’ of the future and the stresses and worries our Diocese faces in this modern World. The Abbot reminded everyone that we must trust in the Words of St Paul “With God on our side who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31). The Church has seen dark days in the past but through it all the Ray of Hope, the Ray of Light that is Christ himself shines through.
A physical connection with history
In honour of his predecessors, Archbishop George celebrated the Mass wearing the Mitre and carrying the Crozier of Bishop John Cuthbert Hedley OSB, Bishop of Newport and Menevia (1881-1915). He also wore the Episcopal Ring of Archbishop Francis Mostyn, Archbishop of Cardiff (1921-1939). Two greats of the Modern Church who helped pave the formation of the Archdiocese of Cardiff. The Abbey Church of St Michael and All Angels in Belmont also contains the last resting place of Bishop Thomas Brown OSB, Bishop Hedley’s predecessor.
Belmont Abbey provided a fitting physical space for our Centenary celebrations both spiritually snd historically. As the congregation commended the Church of Cardiff to the Providence of Almighty God in singing “Thy hand, O God, has guided”, we look forward to the continuing celebrations over the course of the year.
May God bless the Archdiocese of Cardiff, its Archbishop, clergy and faithful. May he continue to guide us and may we be attentive to his voice. Pray God, may the celebrations in 2116 be just as joyous.
View Pictures from the Centenary Mass