25 March 2021, The Tablet

News Briefing: Britain and Ireland

News Briefing: Britain and Ireland

Tuesday 23 March, the anniversary of the first national lockdown, marked with a minute’s silence at midday, praying in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament

The bishops’ conference of England and Wales has moved the date of the Day of Prayer for Victims and Survivors of Abuse to the Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Easter, which this year is on 4 May, in response to a request from survivors. The Day of Prayer was due to be observed during Lent, but “it was felt that the inclusion of this day in Lent was penitential. The original motivation for the day was not on the Church seeking forgiveness for its failings, but on the hope and renewal that is necessary for the victims, survivors and others affected by abuse,” the bishops said.

Dioceses in England and Wales are to carry out an audit of catechesis as part of the implementation of the Vatican’s new Directory for Catechesis. The results will feed into work being done by the Catechesis Committee, which has begun its initial “analysis phase” to assess catechetical formation, and plans to meet with diocesan advisers in June.

The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) UK has renewed calls for an end to the use of military barracks as asylum accommodation in the wake of Penally camp in Wales being closed and returned to the Ministry of Defence on 21 March. JRS UK supports people held at Penally camp’s sister site, Napier barracks in Kent, which will remain in operation despite damning evidence that conditions are “impoverished, run-down and unsuitable for long-term accommodation”.

St Mary’s University, Twickenham, has received powers to award research degrees with effect from 1 April 2021, which mean it can now confer degrees on students such as a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or Master of Philosophy (MPhil).

The Centre for the Art of Dying Well at St Mary’s University has begun a major new partnership with the St Vincent de Paul Society (SVP) to train members and volunteers as End of Life Companions, who will accompany dying people and their families. Training will be online during the pandemic.

Prince William has praised “incredible heroes” in north-west Syria after speaking online with aid workers supported by the Disasters Emergency Committee (Dec) Coronavirus Appeal. One was Shahinaz Muamar, who delivers public health messages plus clean water and hygiene kits, supported by Dec funding through Cafod. Cafod’s director, Christine Allen, said afterwards that, “Now, more than ever, we must stand alongside the people of Syria.”

Bishop Paul Swarbrick of Lancaster, the lead bishop for Africa, has written to Bishop Tesfaselassie Medhin of Adigrat, in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, to offer the solidarity of Catholics in England and Wales. He reaffirmed the Church’s commitment to humanitarian efforts and to “ensuring that our own political leaders hear the cry of Tigray’s people”.

A Co Cavan parish priest has been fined by police in Ireland for celebrating Mass in his local church with people present in contravention to current Covid restrictions. Fr PJ Hughes of Mullahoran and Loughduff had previously been warned by police that he faced prosecution if he continued to hold acts of public worship in his parish.

St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, has appointed Dr Jessie Rogers as the first woman and lay dean of the faculty of theology at the Pontifical University. A Scripture scholar specialising in the Old Testament, Dr Rogers’ academic work focuses on biblical wisdom literature.

The Church of the future “will be a very different place” and “a new way of ministering as Church” is needed, Bishop Fintan Monahan of Killaloe has said. Warning that the dramatic decline in numbers engaging with the Church prior to lockdown will be “greatly accelerated” after the pandemic, he also highlighted that parish income will likely “decrease substantially” in the coming years. The Bishop of Killaloe said this would have an effect on how each parish manages its own affairs and also on the services provided by the diocese that are currently funded from parish contributions.


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