Bishop of Portsmouth charts the new evangelization of England

By David Kerr

Share |
Increase font size Decrease font size

Bishop Philip Egan. Credit: Diocese of Portsmouth.

Bishop Philip Egan, the new head of the Portsmouth diocese says that the Catholic Church must use the forthcoming the Year of Faith to re-explain the salvation offered by Jesus Christ to the people of England.

“We must offer this salvific message,” Bishop Egan said Sept. 24 in his ordination address, “to a people, sorely in need of new hope and direction, disenfranchised by the desert of modern British politics, wearied by the cycle of work, shopping, entertainment, and betrayed by educational, legal, medical and social policy-makers who, in the relativistic world they're creating, however well-intentioned, are sowing the seeds of a strangling counterculture of death.”

Bishop Egan, 56, was ordained Sept. 24 during a ceremony at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Evangelist in Portsmouth. He is the 8th bishop of the diocese which is situated on England’s south coast.

Despite living in an age of “exhilarating developments” in science and technology, Bishop Egan suggested that “human needs ever remain essentially the same.”

These desires include the “need to love and to be loved, the need for a purpose and vocation in life, the need to belong to family and community” as well as the desire “for peace and justice, for freedom and happiness, and most profoundly, the need for immortality and for the Divine.”

These fundamental desires, he said, are “hard-wired into the human heart” and are expressed in theological terms as “salvation.” It is this salvation that the Catholic Church proposes can be found by “every child, woman and man on this planet,” in Jesus Christ.

“There is a Way – and it’s the Truth,” he told the cathedral congregation, “and it’s not a strategy, a philosophy or a package-deal.” Instead, salvation is a person with a name – “Jesus of Nazareth, God the Son Incarnate.”

“He alone can save us. He alone can give us the salvation our spirits crave,” Bishop Egan declared.

“He alone can reveal to us the Truth about God and about life, about happiness and humanism, about sexuality and family values, about how to bring to the world order, justice, reconciliation and peace.”

Bishop Egan was previously the vicar general of the Diocese of Shrewsbury. A philosopher and a theologian, he just completed a new program for teaching the four parts of the Catechism of the Catholic Church during Pope Benedict’s Year of Faith, which begins this October.   

During his 27-years of priesthood, Bishop Egan spent three years as the assistant chaplain at Cambridge University and 12 years on the formation staff at St. Mary’s College in Oscott, the major seminary of the Archdiocese of Birmingham. 

A popular contributor to public debate, Bishop Egan’s writings include works on the thought of the 19th-century English convert Blessed John Henry Newman and the 20th-century Canadian Jesuit Father Bernard Lonergan.

His new diocese has a population of 2.5 million people, with 192,000 of that number being Catholic.

Share |
Increase font size Decrease font size