18 February 2021, The Tablet

News Briefing: Britain and Ireland

News Briefing: Britain and Ireland

Ash Wednesday in St George's Cathedral, Southwark.

The pandemic and environmental changes have combined to “increase exponentially” the scourge of human trafficking, Cardinal Vincent Nichols said at the launch of the Bakhita Centre for Research on Slavery, Exploitation and Abuse at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, last week. “Levels of basic hunger are widespread; people living without a basic income; millions left jobless – all lead to a profound vulnerability open to the most terrible exploitation,” he said. The centre will respond to the growing scale of human trafficking and slavery in the UK and worldwide. On Saturday, Cardinal Nichols celebrated Mass at Westminster Cathedral in honour of Our Lady of Lourdes on World Day of the Sick.

The Irish bishops’ conference has warned that the proposed Dying with Dignity Bill, which aims to introduce euthanasia and assisted suicide, will “coerce” healthcare providers into facilitating “something they know to be gravely immoral and utterly incompatible with their vocation to heal”. The Bishops’ Council for Life and the Consultative Group on Bioethics said burdening the conscience of healthcare providers was also “unnecessary, disproportionate and seriously unjust”.

Church leaders in Scotland have called on the Holyrood government to amend the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill over concerns that it would criminalise what the Scottish Catholic Media Office described as “transgender ideology”. Representatives of the Catholic Church, Free Church and Evangelical Alliance leaders said that the bill represented an assault on freedom of expression.

Fr Vincent Twomey has said there is a moral duty for people to take a Covid vaccine so long as the vaccines are “ethically licit”. In a blog for the Iona Institute think tank, of which he is a patron, the retired professor of moral theology at Maynooth said that in the event of vaccines using cells from aborted foetuses, those committed to the pro-life movement could in conscience refuse to take the vaccine.

Catholics in Ireland marked the start of Lent with takeaway ashes and a drive-through Ash Wednesday. With churches in Ireland closed for public worship, Fr Brian Brady, parish priest of Clonmany in Co Donegal, prepared blessed ashes and placed them in sealed containers which he left in local churches for parishioners to pick up for their families. In Co Cork, parishioners of the Immaculate Church in Clonakilty were able to pick up blessed ashes in envelopes via a drive-through.

The UK Supreme Court has ruled that oil giant Shell will finally face justice in the UK after decades of oil spills from its Nigerian subsidiary in the Niger Delta. Two Nigerian communities devastated by oil pollution will be able to bring legal claims for a clean-up and compensation to an English court, judges decided last week. Cafod said it joined the Ogale and Bille communities in welcoming the ruling.

The huge increase in poverty in Britain during the pandemic will be marked by Poverty Sunday on 21 February. A special online service has been organised for 6pm by the ecumenical charity, Church Action on Poverty.

The bishops’ conference has welcomed a new campaign by NHS Blood and Transplant, Leave them Certain, encouraging people to discuss organ donation with their families. The campaign follows the introduction of an “opt-out” system for organ donation in England. Noting that the Church encourages Catholics to consider organ donation, the bishop for healthcare, Paul Mason (pictured), said: “It might seem a bit scary at first, but instigating these conversations ultimately gives us all more confidence to be able to speak openly about our wishes at the end of life.”

Christian CND and Pax Christi were due to organise their annual Ash Wednesday witness for peace online for the first time this week. The service, which laments Britain’s nuclear weapons programme, usually takes place outside the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall in central London, involving around 100 peace campaigners. The readings, worship and the prayers were due to be held over Zoom.

  Loading ...
Get Instant Access
Subscribe to The Tablet for just £7.99

Subscribe today to take advantage of our introductory offers and enjoy 30 days' access for just £7.99