27 November 2019, The Tablet

News Briefing: Britain and Ireland

News Briefing: Britain and Ireland

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, pictured here with the Prince of Wales who was visiting Belfast Synagogue
Joe Giddens/PA Archive/PA Images

The York Oratory has become the second new oratory to be founded in England this month, bringing the total number of oratories in the country to five. Pope Francis issued the decree that raised the oratory from an oratory-in-formation to an oratory proper on 9 November; the Manchester Oratory was founded at the start of November. The York Oratory, which was founded by members of the Oxford Oratory, has existed at St Wilfrid’s Church in York since 2013. There will be a Mass of Celebration with the presentation of the Papal Brief on a date to be confirmed next year. There are two oratories still in formation in England and Wales, in Bournemouth and Cardiff.

The Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, has praised the Catholic Church for making a “major theological step forward” when, in 2015, it made clear that the Church would neither conduct or support any mission work towards Jews. His comments were part of an Afterword to a new Church of England report on Jewish-Christian relations, and was contrasted to his only “substantial misgiving” about that report, that it did not reject the efforts of Christians who specifically target Jews for conversion to Christianity.

The annual World AIDS Day Mass will be held at Farm Street Jesuit Church in London’s Mayfair at 6pm on Monday 2 December. Fr Dominic Robinson SJ, Farm Street Parish Priest, will celebrate, and Sandra Gayer, a young Zambian-born and visually-challenged soprano, will sing a solo. The Mass is organised annually by LGBT+ Catholics, Westminster Pastoral Council with the support of Catholics for AIDS Prevention & Support.

The UK Government has challenged Iran over its treatment of Christians and other minority faith groups. In a recent statement to the UN during its 34th Periodic Review on human rights in Geneva, UK Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Miriam Shearman, said, “I remain deeply concerned by discrimination against persons belonging to minority religious groups, particularly the Baha’is and Christians”. Specific concerns highlighted in the statement included the arbitrary detention and mistreatment of both citizens and foreign nationals. The ambassador asked Iran to demonstrate that all those being held in prison are not subjected to torture or inhumane treatment, and that those facing criminal charges can appoint their own lawyers and be given an impartial trial.

Churches Together in England (CTE), the Churches’ ecumenical instrument, of which the Catholic Church is a member, has blocked the appointment of a married gay woman to one of its six presidencies. Hannah Brock Womack, a Quaker, was appointed unanimously by CTE’s fourth presidency group, which includes the Lutheran Council of Great Britain and the Church of Scotland. But a majority of the CTE’s member churches asked the fourth presidency group to maintain “an empty chair” for the duration of the next presidential term, which means that while Mrs Womack is the fourth president, she will not be allowed to gather with the CTE’s other presidents, who include Cardinal Vincent Nichols and the Archbishop of Canterbury. In a statement the Quakers described Mrs Womack as a “young, radical peace activist” and said the “grief this situation is causing Friends must not be underestimated by other churches.” CTE said the decision had been taken in the interest of ecumenical unity.

The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) and Pax Christi are all due to hold special advent services this year. JRS UK’s annual service will take place on Friday 6 December at Farm Street Jesuit Church in London, with a service of Readings and Carols due to be led by Bishop Paul McAleenan. The service will also include a performance by refugees. Pax Christi is due to hold its annual Advent Peace Service at 7pm on Monday 9 December at St Aloysius Church in Euston, with peace-themed music led by Julie McCann. St James, Piccadilly, will host a Blue Christmas service on 8 December, for anyone who finds celebrating difficult at Christmas.

Christians in Ireland are every day called to take on “a kind of martyrdom” as they stand up for their faith, the auxiliary bishop of Armagh has said. At a Mass in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh, to launch the ‘Week of Witness’, Bishop Michael Router revealed that 4,305 Christians were killed for their faith over the past two years. He reminded the congregation that even in Ireland, “to publicly espouse Christian ideals can lead to ridicule, insult and aggression”. Bishop Router said that in many places the Church is persecuted because it challenges challenge the systems of injustice, oppression and brute force that exist.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has said the Church of Ireland is “challenged to be the prophetic voice of God at a time when the side effects of Brexit will produce unforeseeable consequences” in Ireland. In a sermon preached for the National Service of Commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Disestablishment of the Church of Ireland, Archbishop Welby noted that the Anglican Church in Ireland ministers on an all island basis. “It is a bridge church – it bridges the two parts of this island,” he said and elsewhere noted: “It is a church for which the border really does not exist. As no border exists in the mind of God.”

The homelessness charity Depaul UK has marked its thirtieth anniversary. Born out of the Passage Day Centre in Victoria, London, the charity supported more than 3,200 people nationally who were experiencing or at risk of homelessness last year.

The latest financial report from the Archdiocese of Dublin has shown an increase in its total income, from €29.7 million in 2017 to €35.6 million in 2018. The rise in income was partially related to the sale of seven buildings, mainly former parochial houses, which brought in an income of €2.6m.The figures were released for Share Sunday. Last year, the Share Fund generated an income of €7.18m while its expenditure amounted to €7.79m, leaving it with a deficit of €616,000 for the financial year. Included within 2018’s expenses was a contribution towards the remaining costs of hosting the World Meeting of Families in August 2018 of €700,000. The financial figures relate to 191 of Dublin’s 197 parishes, excluding six parishes that are run by religious congregations. Statistics for all 197 parishes show that in Dublin last year there were 13,234 baptisms, 15,293 Confirmations and 1,750 Church marriages. Funeral ministry teams ministered to the families of 8,078 people who died last year.

Faith in Politics, the Parliamentary and Public Affairs Internship run by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, has been named among the best lay formation programmes in the world by the Holy See’s Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life. The programme offers spiritual guidance and retreats as well as career development. It was featured on www.laityinvolved.org, the Dicastery’s new website about best practice in lay formation.

The Holy See’s Secretary of State, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, gave the twenty-first Cardinal Winning lecture at the University of Glasgow last week, on the relationship between Church and State. Speaking at the start of Catholic Education Week Archbishop Gallagher told an audience that included the deputy First Minister, John Swinney, that informed education created individuals who wanted to serve their communities.





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