19 June 2020, The Tablet

News Briefing: Britain and Ireland

News Briefing: Britain and Ireland

Individual prayer in Westminster Cathedral after churches opened on Monday.

Bishops from England and Scotland have urged the Government to amend the Immigration Bill currently before Parliament, warning that the legislation as it stands – introducing a points-based system – will “drastically alter people’s opportunities to build their lives here and contribute to society”. Bishop Paul McAleenan, lead bishop for migrants, and Bishop William Nolan, his counterpart in Scotland, said the bill affords an opportunity to reform the immigration system, which they said unjustly separates tens of thousands of families. They added that the system also adversely affects the Church, and forces parishes to fund a Tier 2 Minister of Religion visa for anyone visiting the country to preach, even to supply cover. They also complained that seminaries are not recognised by the Home Office as meeting some of the requirements of the route to a Tier 2 visa.

A record number of women in England and Wales had an abortion last year. Some 207,384 procedures were carried out, the highest number in a year since abortion was legalised in Britain, including 656 babies with Down’s syndrome. Antonia Tully, director of campaigns at the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, called the figures “a national tragedy”. Last month Spuc announced that John Deighan will take over as chief executive in 2021.

The charity Victim Support has been awarded a contract to manage a joint Anglican and Catholic project to support victims and survivors of clerical abuse. “Safe Spaces” will provide a central helpline, a website and up to 10 community-based support groups.

The Bishops’ Conference of Scotland has appointed Fr Nick Welsh as vice rector of the Pontifical Scots College in Rome. The 36-year-old is currently parish priest at Our Lady & St Andrew, covering Galashiels, Melrose and Selkirk.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols and the Archbishop of Canterbury have signed a joint letter to the Israeli Ambassador to the UK and the British Prime Minister, opposing the proposed annexation of Palestinian land by Israel later this year. (See Edward Kessler in this week's edition.) Archbishop Justin Welby and the Cardinal wrote that they “support the fundamental right of Israel’s citizens to live in peace and safety” but also believe this to be possible only through a negotiated peace.

St Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey were among the London churches to toll their bells 72 times at 6 p.m. last Sunday to mark the third anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire. More than 80 churches took part in the tribute to the 72 people who lost their lives on 14 June 2017. Emma Dent Coad, former Labour MP for Kensington and a councillor in the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, told The Tablet: “Grenfell 2 could happen tomorrow and that is shameful.” (Read headteacher Andrew O'Neill on what happened at his nearby school on the day of the fire, and subsequently.)

Clergy make up 94 per cent of the Irish Church’s diocesan trustees, according to research published by the lay reform group We Are Church Ireland, and in five of the 26 dioceses, the bishop is the sole trustee. The figures form part of a “transparency table” collated by the group, which also revealed that only nine of the Irish Church’s 26 dioceses publish their annual accounts on their diocesan websites.

The National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland has warned that the GDPR and the 2018 Data Protection Act hamper its ability to monitor abuse cases. In its 2019 annual report, the Church watchdog revealed an ongoing issue over whether it is legal for a Church authority to share personal data with the National Board relating to allegations against clergy and Religious. Consequently the board is notified of abuse allegations, but the information is anonymised and significant detail is removed, so it cannot advise with certainty on whether reports it receives may also have been forwarded by another Church authority, resulting in double-counting.

Million Minutes, a Catholic charity supporting young people, has appointed its first full-time director. Daisy-Rose Srblin, currently senior UK advocacy adviser at Christian Aid, will take up the role in the summer.

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