27 October 2021, The Tablet

News Briefing: Britain and Ireland

Catholic churches in England and Wales are receiving funding for repairs.

The Catholic bishops’ conference of England and Wales, through the Catholic Trust for England and Wales, is one of 14 organisations across England to receive funding for church repairs from the Government’s Cultural Recovery Fund. An award of £2.9 million to support the 17 repair projects has been made. The buildings, listed Grade I or Grade II and in the care of the Catholic Church in England, are among 142 historic sites across England to receive grants worth £35m through the fund. Historic England administers the Heritage Stimulus Fund: grants for programmes of major works. This second round of funding follows on from the grant of just over £3m that the Catholic Trust for England and Wales received in the first round last year.

A Catholic shrine in Scotland has been vandalised. The Lourdes Cave at Carfin in Motherwell was the target of an arson attack which damaged electrical cabling and candleholders and has affected the roof. Sancta Familia Media issued a statement saying that “massive damage” had been done to the structure, which was opened in the early 1920s by Canon Thomas Taylor after a visit to Lourdes and modelled on the Grotto of Massabielle. Police Scotland is investigating the attack.

APT, the faith-based anti-trafficking network whose members belong to religious congregations in Ireland, has launched a new schools education programme for post-primary students which aims to raise greater awareness and understanding of the crime. The programme, launched on European Anti-Trafficking Day, 18 October, comprises six online video modules containing interviews with specialists who are working to combat trafficking and to identify where trafficking is happening, such as pimp-based prostitution, factories where there is a demand for cheap labour, nail bars and car washes. The programme is being piloted in 16 schools across Ireland during November and December and will be rolled out to other schools in 2022.

The Bishop of Paisley, John Keenan, has claimed that increasing religious illiteracy among politicians, lawmakers and policymakers led to the closure of churches during the second Covid lockdown. Speaking to the Freedom Declared Foundation, a recently launched UK charity to promote freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief, Bishop Keenan said: “As the country becomes more secular, the Christian stories are less formative of our culture.” As a result, he said, the British population would not have a first-hand understanding of religion. The bishop said government and Parliament had fewer people of faith than in in the past. “That naturally gives a kind of illiteracy.” 

A 44-year-old priest serving in Galway Diocese has been placed on leave after a number of controversial TikTok videos he posted came to light. Fr Michael King, ordained in 2016, was serving as a curate in Gort, Co. Galway. In a letter to parishioners, Bishop Brendan Kelly of Galway confirmed that the priest will be absent from the parish “for the foreseeable future”. The statement referred to “upsetting information” concerning the former nightclub barman and amateur actor, who spent six years in St Patrick’s College, Maynooth where he completed his formation. According to Bishop Kelly, priests from the local deanery area are arranging to cover for Fr King’s duties “as best as they can”.

The puppet Little Amal, which seeks to draw attention to the needs of young refugees, was welcomed at Westminster Cathedral, where there was a prayer service. The 3.5-metre-tall puppet started travels at the Syria-Turkey border and is due to end next week in Manchester. Earlier, Little Amal was welcomed at St Paul’s Cathedral, where the Dean, David Ison, said he hoped that London could be a refuge for all those who need it.


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