top of page


Bishop Phonsie Cullinan

There is a lot of talk about the state of the world’s physical climates at the moment. But there is another type of climate change which is much more acute and damaging. In a phrase of the former Chief Rabbi of Britain- Jonathan Sachs – it is ‘cultural climate change’.

Pope Francis said seven years ago that we are living not so much in an era of change as in a change of era. I think that this is becoming more and more obvious. Our society is more secular. God and religion are generally pushed to the margins. The sanctity of marriage and the family are breaking down.  College education is generally oriented to the market rather than personal development and flourishing. Morality is a purely personal matter or something agreed by the majority. Life concerns only this earthly existence, nothing of the transcendent. All of this is happening around us at great human cost, with huge confusion, loneliness, lack of meaning and often despair.

Rabbi Sachs says that essentially religion has three possible ways of dealing with this cultural climate change. One is to attempt to conquer society. This is what radical Islam tries to do and is doing in some places. Another is to withdraw from society and form sheltered groups to withstand the cultural whirlwind. This need not be a negative thing as such groups may be intentionally open and welcoming and willing to engage with contemporary ideas. The third is to attempt to re-inspire society. To bring hope back. While we may be frightened by breakdown and darkness around us we also see the great beauty of human life and the continuing possibility of redemption. Such an approach seeks to respectfully and completely maintain its principles while fully engaging with society and not withdrawing from it.

This year Valentine’s Day fell on Ash Wednesday (or the other way round). What an awkward day! Imagine turning up to a Valentine’s party with ashes on one’s forehead! Or perhaps wiping off the ashes before you got there! Or forgetting about the ashes altogether. But the two days are entirely compatible. Love if it is true love will always entail suffering. To be signed with ashes is to be reminded that we will suffer and die. To be signed with the Cross signifies we have a Saviour. We are not left to our own devices. In all the chaos of cultural climate change there is a central point which is a person who feels human pain and suffering, who died and rose again, who never changes because He is True Love which will never give up or waiver or decay. This is the message which can re-inspire a weary world.


bottom of page