Cardinal Vincent Nichols has congratulated Francis on the fourth anniversary of his election

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, has sent a letter of congratulations to Pope Francis on the fourth anniversary of his election as Pope, thanking him for his “steadfast” defence of Church teaching.

Cardinal Nichols, president of the bishops’ conference, said he was writing on behalf of Catholics in England and Wales.

The cardinal wrote: “We thank God that the Holy Spirit guided the Church in the process of your election and that the same Holy Spirit guides and supports you day by day. We thank God for the richness of the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit, which are the hallmarks of your ministry: joy and peace, patience and kindness, faithfulness, wisdom and mercy.

“Holy Father, we thank you for the steadfast way in which you uphold the teachings of Christ and the Church, presenting them in deed and in word with a freshness and directness, which draws the attention of the world. We pray that God will give you strength and courage to continue this great ministry from which we all draw such encouragement.

“I assure you, Holy Father, of the love, the esteem and the whole-hearted support of us all.

“Please, Holy Father, give us your blessing as we give you our love.”