17 January 2024, The Tablet

Suffering can be turned to good

by Bernard Longley

Beneath the mitre: 2

Suffering can be turned to good

Despite many setbacks faced by the Church, Archishop Longley is optimistic for its future
Alamy, David Warren


In the second of a series exploring episcopal life, the Archbishop of Birmingham finds the abuse scandals ‘shattering’

I have been a bishop for more than 20 years now, since 2003, and I’ve been Archbishop of Birmingham since 2009. But, if asked what have been the richest experiences of my priestly life, I might look back to my time as a recently ordained assist­ant priest in Epsom, Surrey, in the early 1980s. We were a team of four, responsible, among many other things, for several psychiatric hospitals. Some patients had been there for 30 or 40 years; I remember reference being made to one who had been admitted as a “lunatic pauper”. I’ve never known people for whom visits from a priest, and regular Mass, were more important. I remember a retired sister, too, who had worked all her life on the wards, but who still came back every week to help the patients get to the chapel for Mass. Hers was an extraordinary example of real love.


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