Pope Francis was due to bless a new painting of Our Lady of Walsingham this week ahead of the rededication of England as “Mary’s Dowry” in March. The painting, by Amanda de Pulford (pictured below), was to be blessed during the weekly audience on 12 February. It will return to the shrine in Walsingham in Norfolk ahead of the rededication on 29 March, and then travel to every Catholic parish in England. The Rector of The Catholic National Shrine in Walsingham, Mgr John Armitage said ahead of the audience: “It will be a great joy to be with Pope Francis and Cardinal Nichols in Rome for the blessing of the new Dowry Painting. The painting will then be commissioned in Walsingham by Cardinal Michael Fitzgerald on the site of the ancient Holy House then leave to visit every parish in the country as a permanent reminder of the devotion of the people of England to Our Blessed Lady expressed so beautifully in the Dowry tradition we will celebrate on 29 March. On this day we shall surely take Our Lady’s message to heart: ‘Share my Joy in the Annunciation’.” The first dedication was made by Richard II in Westminster Abbey in 1381. At the Walsingham Shrine on 29 March Mass will be followed by a procession with the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham and the Dowry Painting to the site of the Holy House in the Priory Grounds at Walsingham, where the re-dedication will take place.
The Catholic Union has accused the Government of making divorce easier with its forthcoming shake-up of divorce laws in England and Wales, which will remove the ability to contest a divorce and replace the requirement to produce evidence of “irretrievable breakdown” with a simple statement. “Family breakdown is heart-breaking for people involved, but it also has a wider cost for society,” said Catholic Union Head of Public Affairs, James Somerville-Meikle. “Rather than just looking at plans to make divorce easier, the Government needs to look at how to strengthen marriage and family life,” he added. “If the Government is serious about helping families, as their manifesto states, it must scrap the arbitrary two-child limit on tax credits and universal credit”. The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill had its second reading in the House of Lords on 5 February and returns for committee stage next month.
A relic of St John Henry Newman has been stolen from the Birmingham Oratory. In their newsletter last week the Oratory Fathers said: “Sadly the only piece of bone thought to have been St John Henry’s was stolen from its casket in the Newman Shrine. If anyone has seen any suspicious activity, please inform one of the Fathers or Brothers”.
One of the largest churches in the archdiocese of Dublin is to be demolished after the City Council gave the green light to the diocese’s request to replace the 3,500-seater with a new much smaller church as well as housing for senior citizens. The Church of the Annunciation in Finglas West was built in the 1960s under Archbishop John Charles McQuaid when the city was expanding to the suburbs. In 2017 the archdiocese said it was shutting the building due to falling congregations and the cost of maintenance.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin has called on the incoming government to make good their election promises on healthcare. On World Day of the Sick on 11 Feb, as votes were being counted in the general election, the Archbishop of Dublin noted that despite the progress in medical science “so many aspects of our healthcare system are scandalous”. Ireland’s “extraordinary doctors, nurses and carers so often feel let down” by a health system in which “sick children and the elderly are left waiting and exasperated,” he said in the Church of the Guardian Angels in Blackrock, Co Dublin. “We have an obligation to keep our leaders to their words,” he said, and hoped that the “many promises we have heard in these election days won’t remain just empty words.” The Archbishop also highlighted how many of those who are sick suffer from “a deep loneliness and an abandonment – a sense of being rejected and forgotten”.
A former home belonging to the author GK Chesterton has been saved from demolition after planning authorities in Beaconsfield rejected proposals to replace it with an apartment block. The council cited historic and aesthetic reasons for rejecting the proposals. The Bishop of Shrewsbury, Mark Davies, has warned Catholics not to neglect the “human ecology” of marriage, comparing threats to the environment to threats faced by family life. “Imagine, for a moment, if government and society conspired to relax restrictions and allowed more plastics to be thrown into the oceans, more toxic substances to be released into the air… We would surely expect loud public protest. Yet, for half a century the institution of marriage has seen its treasured place in society and the protection of its promises steadily eroded,” he said in a homily for the diocesan celebration of marriage. Alongside this, he said, was an undervaluing of celibacy, which he described as the hallmark of the Catholic priesthood.
Philanthropy award The Catholic philanthropist John Studzinski has been presented with the St Katharine Drexel Award in Catholic Philanthropy by the Board of Founders and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities in Florida. The award celebrates outstanding contributions to philanthropy made on behalf of the Church and the Common Good. As well as supporting projects for the homeless and young artists, Mr Studzinski founded Arise, an anti-slavery charity that works closely with religious sisters. A new report from The Climate Coalition – which includes many church groups – warns that the UK is seeing wetter winters and more frequent weather extremes due to climate change. The report, Home Truths, says that around 1.8 million people are now living in areas with significant risk of flooding. Sarah Croft, Campaigns Manager at CAFOD, said: “This report shows how once-in-a-generation events have become a regular reality for communities here in the UK”.
The chair of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference International Affairs Department has called on the UK government to help protect Syria’s civilians as fighting in the opposition-held province of Idlib intensifies. “I call upon our own government to redouble its efforts towards upholding international law, protecting civilians and ending the fighting,” Bishop Declan Lang of Clifton said on 5 February. “The UK’s Catholic community also has an important role to play in welcoming refugees, supporting charities delivering assistance and offering our prayers for all the people of Syria”.
The Diocese of Leeds is producing a series of podcasts entitled “A History of the Word in 12 Objects” as part of its celebrations for the Year of the Word. Each podcast showcases various objects, chosen from churches and schools across the diocese, which illustrate the Bible’s relevance to Faith. The first podcast featured an unusual stone displayed by the Parish of St Stephen in Skipton, said to be from the site where the first Christian martyr, Stephen, was stoned in Jerusalem in the first century.
Pax Christi has launched a new initiative for Lent. Called NonvioLent, it is inspired by Pax Christi International’s Catholic Nonviolence Initiative. Theresa Alessandro (pictured), Director of Pax Christi, told The Tablet this week: “We invite people to make a commitment to explore and address violence within themselves and to enrich their understanding of nonviolence as creative, effective approaches to conflict.” Pax Christi’s blog will feature members and friends writing about their understanding of nonviolence.