BY CHRISTINA FARRELL
ARCHBISHOP Vincent Nichols of Birmingham has urged Catholics to bear witness to their faith in their public and private lives.
In a pastoral letter read out in churches last Sunday the archbishop said the Feast of the Ascension on May 25 marked the end of Jesus's earthly ministry and "the moment when he gives us our mission".
"Jesus invites us to fulfil this mission today in a society which is secular, wealthy and divided," he said. "Our secular society tends to ignore the Word of God and live as if God does not exist."
The archbishop said too many people were encouraged to fashion their own values, deciding for themselves what is right and what is wrong, and pursuing their own desires even when doing so may hurt others.
"As a result we live in a fragmented world, one in which divisions are deep and frightening for many," he said. He called on Catholics to bear witness to Christ in their attitude to work and wealth, in the defence of human life, in the charism of marriage and in the nurturing of children.
He said the truths about human life, the family and education were not just the foundation of individual happiness but were for the better well-being and health of society as a whole.
Life was not our own possession "but always and everywhere a gift of God". There was a duty to protect life from its first inception until its end.
The archbishop said faith was a gift of which all Catholics could be proud. "A true zest for life springs from a knowledge and love of God," he explained. "A desire to make that love the foundation of our lives is energy for the mission given to us by the Lord."
He added: "In these ways we become builders of His kingdom, often hidden and unsung but faithful and pleasing to the Lord."