Follow God’s commandments but never forget his mercy, Cardinal Vincent Nichols told lesbian and gay Catholics during a pastoral visit to the London parish where they celebrate Mass together.
The service at the Jesuit-run church in Farm Street, in central London, on Sunday evening marked the first time a cardinal has presided at a Mass specifically welcoming LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) Catholics, its organisers said.
The group, LGBT Catholics Westminster, moved their regular community Masses from Soho to the Immaculate Conception church in Farm Street two years ago at Cardinal Nichols’ request.
The cardinal’s homily opened by remembering St Peter’s words to the Gentile Cornelius in Acts 10 that “God does not have any favourites” – something he described as a prelude to opening the Church to those thought of as “beyond its boundaries”.
He told the congregation that God’s mercy and his commandments were not in opposition to each other.
“The commandments of God are given to us precisely as a mercy. They are not, in some strange way, more important than mercy. They are not rules imposed from the outside that above all else have to be obeyed. They are given to help us to live the pathway of our true dignity and highest calling,” he said.
But, he said, Catholics must not abandon these commandments or imagine they are excused from following them by God’s mercy.
“Mercy enables us to start out again. It does not enable us to stop where we are, comfortable in a sense of being accepted just as we are.
"Of course we are accepted. And of course we are disturbed, disturbed by God's love which is never quiet within us until it has truly filled and reshaped us,” he added.