The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) is due to publish its final report into abuse in the Catholic Church on Tuesday 10 November. The report, based on public hearings that took place in October and November 2019, considers abuse within the wider Church, and follows reports into the Archdiocese of Birmingham and the English Benedictine Congregation. According to IICSA’s report on the Church of England published last week, it failed to protect children, created a culture where sex abusers could hide and often gave abusers more support than their victims. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby described the report as “a stark and shocking reminder of how so many times we have failed – and continue to fail – survivors. Apologies are vital, but they are not enough. We have to listen. We have to learn. And we have to act.” Safeguarding will be discussed at the next CofE synod meeting, in November, which will be held online after a change of rules to permit this.
The church of St Antony of Padua in Forest Gate, designed by Peter Pugin, son of Augustus, has launched a campaign to raise the £1.5 million it needs to restore the building. The architect of the restoration, Anthony Delarue, said: “We began stripping back the plaster and we found some pretty spectacular nineteenth century carved stonework. The goal of this project is to put the building back so that it does to the pilgrims of the future what it did on day one.”
An SNP MP suspended from the party for breaching Covid-19 restrictions is believed to have attended Mass at a Glasgow church after showing symptoms. Margaret Ferrier is said to have given a reading at St Mungo’s in Townhead, while attending Mass with around 50 others. She subsequently returned to London before travelling back to Glasgow after being tested positive for the virus. The Church in Scotland said that data protection laws prevented any confirmation of Ms Ferrier’s attendance. A Glasgow Archdiocese spokesman emphasised the importance of self-isolation and said: “It is disappointing if this [self-isolation] has not happened but we would like to reassure people that we fulfil all the government and church guidelines”. Ms Ferrier has been suspended from the SNP but faces calls to resign. The matter is being investigated by the Metropolitan Police. Meanwhile Ferrier has refused to resign, saying that her decision to travel while ill was “an error of judgement”, despite pressure from her party leader and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
Pauline Books and Media Centre, a Catholic bookshop on High Street Kensington in west London, is due to close on 24 October. The Centre, run by Pauline sisters for 55 years, was hit hard by decline in high street footfall and the dominance of online retailers. Sister Angela Grant FSP said: “It is with great sadness that we withdraw our missionary presence from Kensington although we hope to be able to maintain a small community presence of three or four sisters in the London area. At the moment all is in God’s hands.”
The President of the St Vincent de Paul Society (SVP), Helen O’Shea, has welcomed Pope Francis’ new encyclical Fratelli Tutti, describing it as “a powerful and passionate declaration to all Christians that they should work in solidarity for the benefit of those in need”. The encyclical “could almost be a blueprint for the work of the SVP”.
This week, Church Action on Poverty, the national ecumenical social justice charity, organised an online Challenge Poverty Week which included a film premiere, the launch of an anthology of lockdown poetry, and events on race, class and gender. It showcased innovative local initiatives to tackle poverty across England and Wales. A focus on North East England involved people experiencing poverty, and local organisations Thrive, Cedarwood Trust, Gateshead Poverty Truth Commission, Food Power Newcastle and Children North East. A zoom event for Yorkshire looked at the local impact the pandemic has had, with input from The Yorkshire Post, York Poverty Alliance and others. Greater Manchester saw local people talk about the impacts of the pandemic with such groups as Greater Manchester Poverty Action and Manchester Poverty Truth Commission. Wednesday saw a discussion highlighting how Covid has exacerbated inequalities for particular groups, including women, people from black and ethnic minority backgrounds, and families on low income. Another introduced the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and how the Northamptonshire Community Foundation has embedded these goals into their activities. There was a launch of Same Boat? – a poetry anthology and short film on lockdown and poverty.
Re-imagining a better future is the title of a panel discussion featuring Bishop James Jones, Melanie Nazareth of Christian Climate Action and environmentalist Sir Jonathon Porritt, which will kick off Green Christian’s online festival 23-25 October. Under the overall theme, Re-imagining the promised land, the free festival will feature debate, stories of environmental activism, poetry and prayer. “All the solutions we need to address today's climate emergency already exist, but we are close to passing the point of no return,” said Porritt, a Green Christian Patron. “What's lacking is political will - and the solution to that is also in our own hands," he added.
Let's Create A World Without Racism is the theme for a schools’ media competition launched by the Columban Missionary Society. It encourages students 14-18 years to use their media skills to look at an issue which is relevant to society today and resonates with Catholic Social Teaching. The competition is open for writing and image entries until 20 February 2021. There are cash prizes for winners. Two separate competitions will be judged, one for students in Ireland and one in Britain and high-profile judges from the world of journalism include Liz Dodd and Ruth Gledhill of The Tablet. The Columbans are delighted that the competition gives young people a voice while encouraging their creativity. In June this year, after the death of George Floyd in the United States, Pope Francis said: “We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life.” Young people in Ireland and Britain have been out on the streets calling for an end of racism.
The Medaille Trust, founded by religious congregations to tackle modern day slavery, has organised a week of online exhibitions and webinars to raise awareness of human trafficking and slavery, starting with an event to mark Anti-Slavery Day on Sunday 18 October. Running 18-24 October, the initiative will provide an opportunity to encourage government, local authorities, companies, charities, churches and local communities to do what they can to address the issue. Participants will learn how to spot the signs of modern slavery and help the police to find victims. They will see how to prevent vulnerable people they work with, like the homeless, from being trafficked or exploited. And they will explore ways of supporting survivors of modern slavery.
RENATE (Religious in Europe Networking Against Trafficking and Exploitation) is hosting an online event on 18 October 2020, from 6-7pm BST, to celebrate the European Day Against Human Trafficking. This will also be a preview of the upcoming RENATE Film Festival taking place next year.
Lancaster Diocese Faith and Justice is working with Churches Together in Cumbria to offering Modern Slavery Awareness Training, with material from the Clewer Initiative. Modern Slavery: how the Churches can help will run two zoom sessions on 16 and 23 November. The sessions cover the definition of modern slavery, the Modern Slavery Act, the common hallmarks of modern slavery in the UK, and what you should do if you encounter it. The Clewer Initiative helps church communities to respond to modern slavery by raising awareness and providing support and care to the victims. Slavery and human trafficking are of growing concern in Cumbria, with specialist agencies joining with churches and the police to provide training and education. Victims are often immigrants who come to the UK on the promise of a better life, but find themselves being forced into working long hours, in unsuitable working conditions, for less than the minimum wage.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin has said the increasing awareness in society of mental health issues is a positive development and that more spaces where people can talk about their mental health problems are needed. In his homily for Mass on the first ever National Traveller Mental Health Day, Archbishop Martin said the initiative was vital for the members of the Traveller community and for the flourishing of that community. Some 11 percent of all Traveller deaths are by suicide. However, the Archbishop said he did not wish to “look in gloom at those statistics” but wanted to focus instead on a message of hope. “There are ways out. Services are available. We can all help. Health and hope can be restored,” he said. The Archbishop said the growing awareness in Ireland of the challenge of addressing mental health issues included an awareness of how the current pandemic and the restrictions on human interaction inevitably affect people’s mental health. “Our mission as a Traveller Christian community must be to create the space where people can feel the tender embrace of the love of God and where we ourselves bring that love concretely to those who are trapped in the burden of hopelessness.”