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Portsmouth’s bishop is calling for a "huge shift in attitude" from his diocese after identifying some Catholics as viewing the clergy as "a service provider".
In his latest pastoral letter Bishop Philip Egan tells the story of a couple who were lifelong Massgoers but who stopped attending when the parish changed the time of their Mass from 10am to 10.30am.
"They were furious and had stopped going," writes the bishop in a letter to be read at Masses yesterday marking the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
"'Why?' I asked. 'Because it messes up Sunday lunch,' they said.
"I was shocked. Casting off the habit, they were depriving themselves of the Holy Eucharist and the parish of their support, all because their lunch would be 30 minutes late."
The bishop says the diocese needs "a huge shift in attitude" to view the Mass as a source of inspiration to announce the Gospel and perform good works.
He says he suspected that since the 1960s there had been too much focus on the internal life of the Church including "changing the liturgy, building up the parish, the pastoral care of the community".
This had led, says Bishop Egan, to a neglect of the Church’s outward mission to others, adding: "As a result, we have become overly inward-looking, self-absorbed and numerically in decline."
The bishop has announced a Year of Faith in Action and has launched a programme for volunteers to make the diocese more mission-focused. He adds that over the summer there will be an initiative to help people deepen their faith.