Today marks the 135th anniversary of the dedication of Saint John’s Cathedral, Portsmouth on 19th May 1882. Like any other church or chapel, the cathedral church is first and foremost a house of prayer, where Christian people gather to raise their minds and hearts to God in the name of Christ, to praise him, and to pray for their own needs ,and the needs of the Church and the world. Like any other church, the cathedral is a sacred place, made holy by the countless prayers of those who cross its threshold. Our prayers today form but the latest part of that great stream of prayer which has risen to heaven for well over two thousand years.
In his prayer of dedication for the Temple in Jerusalem Solomon asked: “that the Lord’s eyes may be open day and night towards this house, the place of which you have said, ‘My name shall be there’”. Whenever we pray in a church or chapel our very presence is a prayer itself, and we are in union before God with all who have knelt and prayed here before us. Saint Peter tells us that there is also another sacred building, but one not built of stones. This is the Temple of which Christ is the cornerstone; and each one of us, through our baptism, forms a living stone in that Temple. Saint Peter teaches us that we ourselves are a spiritual Temple where God dwells. For this reason he calls us a ‘chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.’ We have a great dignity and we are reminded of that dignity whenever we enter our own chapel which is the work of human hands.
The Cathedral is the mother church of the diocese, the seat of the bishop, and the symbol of the unity of the diocese. Portsmouth Diocese is part of the Catholic Church, part of the universal Church dispersed throughout the world. Through the ministry of the bishop and the dispensation of the Sacraments in every church in the diocese, Christ himself walks among us, bringing us his mercy. In union with the other bishops around the world, and in communion with Pope Francis, the Diocese of Portsmouth is an integral part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, as we profess every Sunday in the Creed. And so today, we pray for the bishop, clergy, religious and people of the Diocese of Portsmouth, that we may truly be God’s living Temple, worshipping him in spirit and in truth, ‘for he has called us out of darkness into his wonderful light’.