Professor Donnelly's Liverpool Address in 2000
Professor Donnelly Liverpool 2000
Firstly may I say how grateful we are to Mgr Cookson and the staff here at the Cathedral or allowing us to use this beautiful church and to Brother Ken Vance who has worked so hard to put this service together and to all the children and everyone who will be contributing and taking part. We often hear people calling for cancer charities to work together. In fact they do so much more than is apparent to the public eye but now, for the second year running, all the cancer charities here on Merseyside have come together to unite with each other, with cancer patients and with those who care for them in this Afternoon of Prayer. It is interesting that it is the spiritual dimension which has brought us all together in such a public way. All our cancer charities do wonderful work, each in their own way and complementing each other and each is equally deserving of the marvelous support they receive. But we are all "pulling the cart in the same direction" and this could not be better displayed than for us all to be united in prayer as we are today. There are many people in hospital or at home, unable to join us here physically but we will be thinking of them and I am sure that many of them will be joining us in spirit and prayer in their own way. The power of prayer should never be underestimated. Our prayers are always answered though not necessarily at the time or in the way we expect - we must leave that to God in his wisdom. We can be quite sure, however, that they will be answered in the way that is best for us. I was taught a long time ago that the most practical thing to do when faced with any situation was first of all to pray about it. That advice has stood me in good stead when facing the trials and tribulations that life can throw at us. Allied to that and inseparable from it is the idea, which I have gradually understood and experienced better and better as life has gone by, that God is our Father, that we are his children, that He truly loves us and that He wants nothing but our good and happiness and watches over each one of us every minute of our lives. Because God loves us so much, more than all the fathers and mothers in the world love their children, and because He is aware of everything that happens to us and wants us to be happy, it makes sense to tell Him about our problems and anxieties and to ask Him to help us to cope with them and to remove them if that is what is best for us. God did not invent cancer or suffering. God is good and only good things can come from God. How then can we explain them and why does He allow them? I was thrown that curveball by Steve Williams on Radio Merseyside this morning and it is not easy to answer. I am no theologian and much more clever men and women than me have wrestled with these problems. The answer seems to lie with our first parents, soon after creation, when, using the precious gift of free will given to them by God, they rebelled against Him and as a result the total harmony which had existed between them and God and the complete integrity that was present within their own body and soul was lost. Our human nature was damaged and, as a result, death and disease and war and every kind of sin entered the world and has been with us ever since. There is nothing good about suffering and everyone affected by cancer suffers to a lesser or sometimes very great degree. We clearly have to do all we can to relieve that suffering and this is what God wants and expects us to do. Whilst it is present, however, it is consoling to know that suffering can be turned into something of great value. If anyone doubts the potential value of suffering just let them look at the Cross and what was achieved by the merits of the sufferings of Christ. Our suffering, too, can have great merit if it is accepted for love of God and united to that of Christ. We can convert our suffering into a prayer which is very pleasing to our Father God and this will bring down untold blessings on ourselves and those for whom we offer it. Let us not lose these wonderful opportunities to use our sufferings, big and small, to call down God's favour on our families, our friends and anyone else for whom we want to pray. The prayers of the sick and those who look after them have great power with God. There is so much to pray for. We have to pray for ourselves, for those close to us and for many others. In the context of this afternoon we must pray for those with cancer, for those who care for them, for nurses, radiographers, doctors and others in the medical and allied professions, for those who have a fear of getting cancer, for those who have been cured of cancer (and there are many of those today), for scientists trying to find new treatments and even a cure and for those in public office who have responsibility for providing adequate care and resources. Nowadays virtually everyone is touched in one way or another by this disease. There is an urgent need to find solutions to all the problems it raises for individuals and for society as a whole. We must take every medical, social and scientific action we can. The first thing we have to do, however, is to pray and to ask God to rid our community of this dreadful disease and, in the meantime, to ease the distress it causes to those affected. Later on those who want will have the opportunity to light a candle for themselves or for someone they know or perhaps to say thank you to God for recovery from cancer. It is also an opportunity for us to remember those we have lost to cancer. I lost my own father when I was eight years old and will be lighting a candle for him later. I will also be praying for the day when there is no more cancer, when we can prevent cancer by getting rid of all the causes, when our scientists come to a full understanding of the ways in which cancer develops in the body and can cure it. We can do this for some cancers already but not for all. That day, though, is not too far away - I am sure that the younger ones here today will see it in their lifetimes. There is cause for hope but we must ask God to bring that day here as soon as possible. The more we pray, the quicker it will come.