Bishop McMahon welcomes the Pope to the Big Assembly

"By educating children and expanding each one's capacity for love, we develop the whole person, nurturing body, spirit and mind alike."

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St Mary’s University College, Twickenham, Friday, 17 September 2010

Pope Benedict,

It is my honour to welcome you to this celebration of Catholic Education in England, Scotland and Wales. You can see for yourself what great joy your visit brings to our hearts.

Today, we celebrate the many generations of young people who were educated in Catholic schools and colleges and have subsequently taken their place in society to serve the common good. We celebrate the wonderful sense of faith and community that characterises our schools. And we celebrate with you, our faith, our love, and our hope for the future. At the heart of Catholic Education is our understanding that young people shall have life and have it to the full. That is our theme today.

Christ’s words guide us as we strive to educate our children, because we believe that true fulfillment of the human person can only come through a close friendship with Christ. All that happens in Catholic Education is based on our belief that a human person is made in the image of God and this is most fully expressed in the desire to know and to love. By educating children and expanding each one’s capacity for love, we develop the whole person, nurturing body, spirit and mind alike. Today one in ten young people is educated at one of England’s 2,200 Catholic schools, with many more in Scotland and Wales. Thousands more young and mature students receive further and higher education in our colleges.

Holy Father, this Big Assembly celebrates some of the powerful forces which connect the students, schools and colleges, and help people live life to the full: Community, friendship, sport and of course faith. Such fulfilled lives are only made possible through the relationship between State and Church. Our unique relationship with our government, which we value very much, has enabled Catholic schools and University Colleges to make an enormous contribution to the life of our society. We are also assisted by many members of staff and governors who are not Catholics, but who subscribe to the ethos of Catholic education. In your presence, Holy Father, I thank them on behalf of the Catholic Community.

Our schools and colleges are also integrated into parish communities, local authorities and school networks. A sense of these connections can be felt today with so many children from so many schools and boroughs coming together to greet you, Holy Father, at this Big Assembly. They are far from alone, through the internet and television, this event is being attended by young people, their families and parish communities, throughout the world – coming together to celebrate this occasion with you. Each will remember this day for years to come. And you can be assured, Holy Father, that they will remember you in their prayers as you continue your visit to the United Kingdom.

And finally, I want to announce that following your historic visit in England and Wales, we’ll be celebrating a year of Catholic education, and this will recognise past achievements, but also look forward to a future where we ensure that only the best education is delivered to our young people.

Holy Father, welcome to The Big Assembly.

The Rt Rev Malcolm McMahon
Bishop of Nottingham