16 May 2022, The Tablet

News Briefing: Britain and Ireland



News Briefing: Britain and Ireland

Mass for matrimony.
Diocese of Westminster

More than 430 couples from 144 parishes in Westminster diocese, celebrating more than 5,000 years of marriage between them, attended the annual Mass in thanksgiving for the Sacrament of Matrimony to renew their vows at Westminster Cathedral last Saturday 14 May. Just as the cathedral is decorated with a variety of mosaics, the couples create a mosaic of married love, said the Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Vincent Nichols. “Just as there are millions of mosaic pieces in this cathedral, there are millions of stories, events and tiny moments that go into creating married love.” Thirty-five couples were celebrating at least 60 years of marriage, with a further 74 celebrating 50 years. 

Parents joined the picket lines outside the John Fisher School in Purley, south London, where strike action continued last week.  The school was again forced to close as staff members demanded the reinstatement of governors sacked by the Archdiocese of Southwark for approving the visit of the gay author Simon Green in March, while a number of parents organised a separate demonstration in support of the diocese’s position.  Staff members told Inside Croydon that a member of the interim board of governors appointed by the diocese had threatened to sack all members of staff striking over the dispute.

The Scottish government has said that it will make permanent the “DIY” abortion provisions introduced during the pandemic.  This decision comes before the final report of its in-depth evaluation of at-home abortions, due in the autumn, and has been condemned by pro-life groups.  A spokesperson for Right to Life UK said: “Thousands of women will be put at risk by the Scottish government’s decision.  It appears that it has announced the decision without completing the safety review, following pressure from abortion campaigners.”  The provision, which allows pregnant women to take both pills for an early medical abortion at home, has been permanent in England and Wales since March.

Actor and playwright Michael Mears led more than 100 participants through the annual national ceremony for conscientious objectors at London’s Tavistock Square last Sunday. It remembered historical names and offered solidarity to people resisting war today internationally - including many in prison. Bruce Kent, vice-president of Pax Christi England and Wales, said: “As ever, the International Conscientious Objectors’ Day ceremony was moving and impressive and we heard messages from war resisters in both Ukraine and Russia.” He added: “We were honoured to have Sahar Vardi with us, a young woman who has served three prison sentences for refusing to be conscripted into Israel's military service.” In her talk, she said: “Conscientious objection is not something you do once, it’s a call for continuing action….a rejection of being part of the mechanism of war.” Flowers were laid at the square’s conscientious objectors memorial stone to remember objectors from around the world and across time. Several people tweeted that tears welled up as they remembered relatives and listened to names being read out. Organisers included War Resistors International, Quakers in Britain, Peace Pledge Union and Pax Christi England and Wales.  

The Archdiocese of Dublin has said it is “disappointed” that Dublin City Council has recommended that church lands should not be zoned for housing. Earlier this year, the diocese made a submission on the ‘Draft Dublin City Development Plan 2022–28’. The plan proposes a zoning status for certain institutional lands such as parish churches and schools which precludes any housing or office development. In its submission, the Archdiocese pointed out that this would unfairly restrict the options which might be appropriate in the event that a church or school property was no longer required to meet the needs of the Church in particular areas. However, the Chief Executive of Dublin City Council, Owen Keegan, has recommended that city councillors reject the majority of the submissions made by the Archdiocese of Dublin. He said any residential development on these sites would likely require a church demolition and that a number of the churches were protected structures which would limit development in their grounds. In a statement Dublin diocese said, “We are disappointed that the flexibility available under the status quo will no longer exist. This could lead to costly and time-consuming processes if and when changes of use at sites are required.” The Archdiocese of Dublin believes that this is “short-sighted” and unnecessarily restricts the diocese’s efforts to assist in meeting the city’s housing needs.

A first-class relic of Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko has been stolen from a church in Lincolnshire. Taken the night of 9 May, the relic – a gold reliquary containing a relic of Bl. Jerzy’s blood – had been gifted to St Nicholas Church in Boston by a member of the parish. Police have appealed for this with more information to come forwards. Bl. Jerzy, a Polish priest and supporter of the Solidarity trade union movement, was murdered in 1984 by three state security officers. On 6 June 2010 in Warsaw he was beatified before a crowd of over 100,000. His cause is currently being considered for canonisation.

A painting of St Clare and companions on auction for Ukrainian refugees in Ireland has sold for €11,000, nearly 30 times the starting price. The oil painting is one of 600 lots being auctioned from Clonliffe College Seminary in Drumcondra, closed since May 2019. As well as raising funds for Ukrainian refugees, the auction will also make room for them; Clonliffe has been approved as emergency housing for approximately 150 people, due to move in over the next four to six weeks. On sale are over 70 other pieces of art, some several centuries old, a 19th century oak pulpit, an oak confessional box, and a working Steinway piano. 

The Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice has called for a new Clean Air Act that would supersede legislation on air pollution that dates back to 1987. In their submission to the Irish Government’s Clear Air Strategy Public Consultation, which is aimed at reducing pollution and poor health, the JCFJ highlighted that poor air disproportionately affects marginalised groups such as travellers, people living in areas of disadvantage, and those with disabilities. Official data shows that poor air quality causes about 1,400 premature deaths in Ireland through respiratory illnesses. According to Dr Ciara Murphy, the JCFJ’s Environmental Policy Officer, environmental pollution is not experienced equally across society. Where you live, the quality of your housing and your access to healthcare can all have an impact on how much you are affected by air pollution. “For many marginalised communities, poor air quality is a constant reality,” she said.

An international body of scholars will examine questions such as the role of theology in the life of a university and how the academic study of theology differs from other academic approaches to the study of religion at ‘A Festival of Theology’ hosted by the Loyola Institute in Trinity College Dublin next week. In an article titled, ‘The Case for Theology in the University’, Dr Con J. Casey CSsR, Founding Director of the Loyola Institute, explains that teaching and research in the theology of the Catholic tradition is the academic mission of the Loyola Institute which celebrates its tenth year in 2022. In 2012, the Institute was launched with the support of eight religious congregations in Ireland.The two-day Festival of Theology will see speakers such as Professor Massimo Faggioli (Villanova University) argue for the presence of theology in the university. His paper will explore some of the challenges to theology coming not only from the outside but also from inside the Catholic Church. Other speakers will include Professors Dirk Ansorge (Sant’ Georg, Frankfurt), Sergio Bonino OP (Angelicum, Rome), Josef Quitterer (Innsbruck), Sharon Rider (Uppsala), Ethna Regan (Dublin City University), and Fáinche Ryan (Trinity College Dublin).

The Bishop of Cloyne William Crean, has warned that the inclusion of the “community of believers” from participation in key dimensions of society is at stake. Preaching at the Cloyne diocesan pilgrimage to Knock Shrine on Vocations Sunday on 8 May, he said that while the harvest of dedication to life in the Spirit is great, the number of labourers is decreasing. “We have ample commentary on the negative impact that the Catholic Church has had on the lives of many who with the support of the State found themselves confined in institutional settings,” he said. “The odium of the nation has been poured out on virtually all religious women and men from previous generations.” The “selective narrative” which conveys a message of negativity around things religious and spiritual is the fruit of a commentariat group think “that operates in self-referential silos”, he added. “We will be deluding ourselves if we do not acknowledge the profound levels of social disintegration that is taking place among us…. If we dismiss our past as a source of shame and embarrassment only, we risk depriving a new generation of connection with deep wells of spirituality and inspiration for living.”      

 The funeral of John Wilkins, editor of The Tablet between 1982 and 2003, will take place at 11am on 7 June at Holy Apostles Church, 22 Winchester Street, Pimlico, London SW1V 4NZ. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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