We, as members of the Catholic Church, "are the temples of the living God" (2 Corinthians 6:36). A Cathedral community, in a special way, images the Body of Christ on earth by praying, singing, worshipping together and, by providing a welcoming space for all who come. As the Mother Church at the heart of the Diocese, the Cathedral welcomes all to a spiritual home. At the heart of its activities is the love of Christ and the overflow of this love to all in need.
The welcome to the Cathedral begins at the front gate or in the car park and, therefore, the surrounding grounds convey a sense of beauty and welcome.
A Cathedral is not necessarily the geographic or demographic centre of the Diocese but, it is the heart of the Diocese. This heart is marked by hospitality; it is a place for pilgrimage of all the faithful.
What is a Co-Cathedral?
A Co-Cathedral is a cathedral church which shares the function of being the Bishop's seat, or cathedra, with another cathedral. The Saint John Vianney Co-Cathedral will in no way compromises the Cathedral status of St Francis Xavier Cathedral, which was declared a Cathedral by Pope Pius XII in 1951. Our Cathedral and Co-Cathedral exist side by side in neighbouring parishes in the one pastoral region. There is one Bishop, and one Dean who is also the Administrator.
Henceforward, any reference to the Cathedral is equally applicable to the Co-Cathedral.
The seat (cathedra) of the Bishop
The universality of the Catholic Church is often represented by the Chair of Peter, located in Rome. The Pope occupies the chair: he is the shepherd of all Catholics and, "from the chair" he teaches authoritatively about faith and morals. Catholics from around the world are called into unity in this symbol of Saint Peter's Chair. The Cathedral Church is the site of the local Bishop's chair called the cathedra. The cathedra is a sign of the Bishop's teaching office and his pastoral leadership of the diocese. It is a sign of the unity of believers in the Faith who are gathered under one shepherd. The cathedra reminds us that our shepherd is in our midst. Hence, the Bishop's chair stands prominently, but alone, in the cathedral.
Diocesan and Local Liturgical Celebrations
"The office of the Bishop as teacher, sanctifier, and pastor of his Church shines forth most clearly in a liturgy that he celebrates with his people."1
The Cathedral becomes the centre of many Diocesan liturgical celebrations presided over by the Bishop. Pre-eminent among these is the Mass of the Holy Oils, the Chrism Mass in Holy Week. On this occasion the Bishop is surrounded by the Presbyterate of the Diocese: "In the person of the Bishop, with the presbyters gathered round him, the Lord Jesus Christ, the High Priest, is present in the midst of the faithful" 2
".....all should hold in great esteem the liturgical life of the Diocese centred around the Bishop, especially in his Cathedral Church; they must be convinced that the pre-eminent manifestation of the Church is present in the full and active participation of all God's holy people in these liturgical celebrations.." 3
The Cathedral: A repository of Sacred Art
Art has always had a house in Cathedrals. There is great harmony between liturgy and the arts. Art is the servant of the liturgy. A Cathedral houses significant aspects of our faith in well chosen images of art. In the selection of art to be displayed the principle of "noble simplicity" is followed.
The Cathedral is a place of beauty and prayer. The sanctuary in particular has an architectural setting that is beautiful and inspiring. It is designed to avoid clutter, allow spaciousness, and to serve the liturgical life of the local Church, which is the Diocese.
There are three types of art used within the Cathedral Church:
Art that is ornamental (internal and external arches, columns, doors);
2. Art that is catechetical (biblical history of salvation carved into relief panels, stain glass windows which teach about the faith, and statues and icons);
3. Art that is sacramental in the sense of conveying the presence of mystery through the use of light and shade giving a perceptible sign of what we cannot see.
A sense of good liturgy
The Cathedral Church should be a model for the other Churches of the Diocese in its conformity to the directives laid down in liturgical documents and books with regard to the arrangement and adornment of churches. 4
The Cathedral Church needs to be a centre for good liturgy within the Diocese. Good liturgy includes the dignified leadership of the celebrant, good liturgical music, the confident proclamation of the Scriptures by readers, the reverent service of all ministers of the altar and the full, active and conscious participation of all worshipers.
The Cathedral, especially the sanctuary, provides space for grand liturgical occasions and Diocesan celebrations. The ordering of the Cathedral Church has as its focus a well designed setting for the celebration of the Eucharist on Sundays and on special Diocesan occasions.
A House of Prayer
A Cathedral is a place of prayer and pilgrimage. All who seek God are welcome to come to the Cathedral Church to pray. It may also provide one or more devotional spaces for those who wish to express their faith in this way. However, the main focus is always on the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church.
A Place of History - telling the Catholic Story of the Diocese
The Cathedral draws all people to a deeper level of meaning about the origin and goal of all human endeavours. The Cathedral beckons everyone to participate in the wonder of God's universal love given freely in His only Son, Jesus Christ. In our secular context the Cathedral advertises powerfully our God of love, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, justice and peace. The Cathedral tells the story of salvation history and honours the memory of the many women and men who have contributed to the Catholic story in the local area.
1 Ceremonial of Bishops, 11
2 Ceremonial of Bishops, 8
3 Ceremonial of Bishops, 11
4 Ceremonial of Bishops, 46; General instruction Roman Missal, 253-312