Our annual Embrace Youth Conference takes place in the stunning Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral. It was this very building which inspired such a gathering and we are very lucky to host our conference here. We would like to thank the Cathedral Dean, Fr Anthony O’Brien, Executive Assistant to the Dean, Claire Hanlon and all the staff at the Cathedral for welcoming the Embrace Conference.
The Metropolitan Cathedral as we know it today is in fact the fourth attempt by the Catholic Church in the North West of England to build a mother church for the Liverpool diocese. It took over 100 years for the dream to be realised. The intriguing story of each attempt can be read under the headings opposite, including a section about the former Work House, the largest in Europe, on which site the cathedral now stands. The Parish Church of St Nicholas on Copperas Hill served as the Pro-Cathedral, the liturgical heart of the diocese for a hundred years prior to 1958 when the Crypt was opened.
The spirit which the Metropolitan Cathedral enshrines is told in part in its history – the labours of its builders and sponsors, the perseverance of the poor in supporting successive leaders of the community in the fulfilment of their holy ambition; partly in the beauty of the final product produced by the skills of contemporary architects, artists and craftsmen. But most of all that spirit is portrayed in the communities which use the building. There are the local residents of the parish ; the lay clerks, boys and girls who sing the regular choral offices and with their families form a substantial part of the community at the Solemn Sunday Mass week after week; the large numbers of students from the university residences which surround us, who make this their parish church; the Merseyside Polish community; the troubled and the bereaved who slip into to pray in peace and quiet and the scores of volunteer helpers who, together with the staff, in their various ways make the fabric come alive to the glory of God and in the service of their neighbours.
A cathedral is not just bricks and mortar, concrete, steel, stone and glass. These do indeed form a powerful, permanent and visible witness to realities which transcend the mundane concerns which preoccupy most of us most of the time. More importantly the building exists as a home for activities which centre upon God, and as the focus of a community – or rather a series of communities – which draw spiritual sustenance from the building and the worship which takes place there.