What a great pleasure it was to welcome Bishop John back to the diocese last month. There was a great turnout from all parts. Thanks to everyone who made such a great effort to be there and a great big thanks to all those who were involved in the organisation of the day. Bishop John reflected on the readings for the Mass in a very deep and personal way, allowing us to share in his meditations, and he also gave us the opportunity to apply the teaching to our own lives today. At the end of the Mass I was able to express our thanks to him and appreciation of his ministry among us – past, present and still to come. If I can repeat my words especially for the benefit of those who were not able to be with us:

“This is an opportunity for us to express our gratitude to you and to congratulate you in person. There are all sorts of things that we would want to say to you, to express to you. Some of us will have the words, the right turn of phrase, the bon mot. Others will be more direct and simple in our thanks and congratulations, but all will be heartfelt and sincere.

I am sure too that you will receive a variety of gifts and tokens of love and appreciation. Similarly they will be a sign of our genuine affection for you.

But what do you give to a good, holy, long-serving bishop on his golden jubilee of priesthood? Well as I said, I am sure there will be a huge variety of things that people have and will give you. But dare I say that perhaps the best gift, the greatest sign of affection and the deepest symbol of respect that can be offered to you is right in front of your eyes today – your people, your flock, your brothers and sisters in Christ.

Bishop John, please accept our congratulations, our gratitude, our love and genuine prayers for your wellbeing and long continued ministry. Although you no longer have the weight of officially being our shepherd, you certainly continue your ministry in so many ways. I hear everywhere I go – ‘Oh Bishop John has just given us a retreat, Bishop John is giving a day of recollection next week, Bishop John is coming to speak to us.’ What a great ministry you are carrying out as our Bishop Emeritus and long may it continue!

Although you have gone through a few years of difficulty health-wise, it is so good to see you here today looking and sounding so well and at peace with all that the Lord is asking of you.

Well I go back to my earlier question, what do you give to a good, holy, long-serving bishop on his golden jubilee? I know what we wish for you – peace, contentment, joy in the Lord, good health to continue your work and ministry. May you be surrounded by family and good friends and enjoy their company and friendship for many years to come.

But so that you can continue to share your spiritual knowledge and experience with us, you will need to spend time in prayer, contemplation, reflection and thought. When you were here last time, among the things we gave you was a monk’s table, made by Thompson’s of Kilburn, that you could place your books on to read and study. Well this time we would like to offer you another piece of spiritual furniture, a monk’s chair so that you may continue your holy ministry among us and further afield throughout our country.

Please accept this gift as a sign of our love and affection and as a promise that you will remain in our thoughts and prayers today and into the future. Congratulations on your 50 years of priesthood and ad multos anos!”