I am delighted to be here in Holy Trinity College this morning for this Advent Carol Service. I thank all those responsible for inviting me – Mr Rafferty, Principal – Mrs Gilvarry, Father Campbell and those many people involved in making the preparations.

I am very pleased that one of the first visits in the diocese, since my return from Rome, is to a school that bears the noble name ‘Holy Trinity College’. For that name reminds us of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – a God who a family of persons and who made each one of us to share in that life of the divine family.

The name Holy Trinity College reminds each one of us to begin everything that we say or do In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. That name reminds me why I am here on this earth – to give praise to God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I am glad to be in a College which has, as its aim, to promote care and concern for pupils within the community as though each one of those pupils is made in the image and likeness of God and therefore deserves our respect and our care.

I am glad to be here in a College that has, its aim, the centrality of Christian values to a Catholic ethos of education.

That, for me, means getting to know Jesus Christ and the values which he held and lived in his life. Otherwise they are not Christian values. I see that as obvious in the lovely Advent Carol Service you have prepared. In this school you are trying to get to know Jesus Christ. You are trying to get to know how he came into the world as one of us but we also seek to know God the Father, the source of all creation, and God the Holy Spirit, who is our helper and our guide.

I am very pleased to be here in a school which has, as one of its main aims, to foster respect for other people. This is all important. This is to be done by developing a spirit of consideration for all. I see this as an invitation to think, for a moment, who the other person is, regardless of whether that person is rich or poor, old or young, strong or weak, it doesn’t matter. Every other person is like you and me – made in the image and likeness of God. What is God like? Well, we see the face of God in Jesus Christ.

It is nice to be here in Holy Trinity College in this season of Advent once again. We are preparing to celebrate the coming of the Son of God into our midst. He came as one of us. He pitched his tent among us the Gospels tell us. By becoming one of us, Jesus gave each and everyone of us a lift. He raised us up. He enhanced our dignity and we need to respect that dignity in ourselves and in others.

I am very pleased to have the opportunity of meeting so many people here today. It gives me an opportunity of paying my respect to the Principal, Mr Rafferty and the staff and to congratulate them on the excellent work of education which takes place here in Holy Trinity College.

What is that work? It is the work of preparing young women and men to be the best possible citizens which they can become in this life and in the next. It is a place where people are made aware of who they are and why they are here and who they belong to and the fact that we are here on this earth to give praise and glory to God.

It allows me to pay my respect to the Board of Governors, to thank them for the work they do in protecting and promoting the ethos of this school. It gives me an opportunity to pay my respect of the Principals of feeder Primary Schools and to meet them and their pupils and that is a joy.

It also gives me an opportunity to meet and pay respects to the priests of Ministers of Religion of this area. I am delighted to see so many old friends because I am well aware of the good relations which exist here and which have been pioneered down through the years by people of courage and of vision and saw the way forward and had the courage to take bold steps. I am delighted to meet them here.

I also delighted to meet the Chief Executive of Cookstown District Council, Mr McGuckin and his colleagues and to pay my respects to them for the excellent work which they do in promoting the common good.

As you know, just last week I came back from Rome where the Holy Father conferred on me the great honour of being a Cardinal of our Church, when we met on three or four days. On the first day we were at a meeting with the Holy Father and the other Cardinals where we discussed the work of ecumenism, the work of inter-faith dialogue which something that is on the agenda and will not go off it. Great progress has been made, more work needs to be done.
I was happy to bring to the Holy Father, the greetings and good wishes of many people here in Ireland, including many of other Christian denominations and other faiths and the Holy Father, in turn, asked me to bring his blessings and his good wishes to the people of Ireland and of course I am glad to have the opportunity to do that here, to you, the people of Cookstown.

Finally, I am very pleased to have the opportunity of praying with you. That is what every Carol Service is – a time to pray. It is said that whoever sings, prays twice.

In Advent we pray that Christ may come once more to each one of us, into our minds and hearts. We remember that Christ came long ago – born in a stable – no place in the Inn. We recall that Christ said he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.

But, right now, here and now, Christ also comes, in a hidden way but in a real way. He comes in his word, calling us to turn around and change our ways and repent of our sins and come back to Him. He comes in the sacraments to strengthen us. That is why we are always being told ‘Stay awake’.