15 June 2022, The Tablet

News Briefing: Britain and Ireland

News Briefing: Britain and Ireland

Pope Francis greets Christopher Trott, the British ambassador to the Holy See.
CNS photo/Vatican Media

The National Board of Catholic Women, Catholic Women’s League and Union of Catholic Mothers were all represented at Cafod’s 60th anniversary Mass on 10 June in Southwark Cathedral. The founders of Cafod were Catholic women whose project in the Dominica so impressed the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales that they formed the new agency around it in 1962. Cafod has been the official aid agency for the Catholic Church in England and Wales since that time. Several hundred people attending the Mass and others on livestream heard Bishop Tom Williams, auxiliary in Liverpool, applaud Cafod’s work and note that “the work of Cafod never seems to cease, with one crisis after another.” Cafod, he felt, offers hope and “shows what can be done”. The London Community Gospel Choir led the music and received a warm round of applause at the end after singing Cafod’s Jubilee Song by Bernadette Farrell. In the congregation were former Cafod directors Chris Bain and Julian Filochowski, along with Cafod workers and volunteers from many dioceses, including Middlesbrough, Plymouth and Westminster. The National Justice and Peace Network and Pax Christi were among other organisations represented. Cafod’s first woman director, Christine Allen, gave thanks for global partner organisations and for volunteers, supporters and staff past and present in England and Wales. She said Cafod “brings Catholic Social Teaching to bear on the issues of the day and is part of a living, vibrant community.” Christine noted the 10th anniversary of the death of Mildred Neville, a former Cafod trustee, and the recent losses of Sr Pat Robb, Dr Mary Halloway and Bruce Kent, “a good friend and challenger to Cafod”. (See possible pic in email forwarded from Ellen Teague, From left to right: Joan Hodge (UCM), Christine Allen (CAFOD), Margaret Clark (NBCW) and Siobhan Garibaldi (CWL).

An Irish diplomat is a keynote speaker at July’s annual conference of the National Justice and Peace Network. Philip McDonagh, author of On the Significance of Religion for Global Diplomacy, played a part in the Northern Ireland peace process in the build-up to the Good Friday Agreement and later served as Head of Mission in India, the Holy See, Finland, Russia, and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. He will speak on the theme of hope.  This will pick up on the conference theme which aims to support participants look for signs of hope in their own communities and in our wider world. It will be held 22-24 July 2022 at Swanwick in Derbyshire with several hundred justice and peace activists expected to attend. Conference chair is Tim Livesey, chief executive of Embrace the Middle East, which works with Christian partners in Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Syria and Iraq. Tim worked as director of public affairs for Dr Rowan Williams when he was Archbishop of Canterbury and spent 19 years in a variety of roles in the Foreign Office and Downing Street. Rev Ruth Gee, Assistant Secretary of the Conference of the Methodist Church in Britain, and patron of the network, will lead an ecumenical service. Other speakers include Fr Patrick Devine, SMA, of the Shalom Centre for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation, which works to mitigate conflict and poverty in Africa and Andy Flanagan, executive director of Christians in Politics, who juggles his political work with his career as a singer-songwriter. Workshops will include issues of domestic poverty and universal credit, Guardians of Creation, Restoring dignity to prisoners and their families, Interfaith working and Church Action for Tax Justice. A Just Fair provides a marketplace for organisations to share information. Booking at: www.justice-and-peace.org.uk/conference/

The Diocese of Motherwell has called for a Church defined by inclusivity and in which “everyone has an equal place, irrespective of gender, sexual orientation, or age”. Bishop Joseph Toal said that the report reflected the faith and enthusiasm of the people of Motherwell, as expressed in the synodal process. The diocese is the largest in Scotland in numbers regularly attending Mass, and is the first to submit a report to the current Synod on synodality. The report calls for a “confident but humble Church, aware of her own weaknesses and mistakes, but ready to take her place in the public square with a well-formed clergy and laity”. In achieving this, it is hoped, the report goes on, that clericalism will “gradually wither”, devolving authority “to the whole People of God”.

St Chad’s cathedral in Birmingham will host an ecumenical service to welcome the Commonwealth Games to the city on 28 July.  Archbishop Bernard Longley will introduce the service and the Pentecostal bishop Mike Royal, general secretary of Churches Together in England, will speak.  The archdiocese has also issued a list for visitors of churches within the vicinity of the Games, which will run until 8 August.  This is the first time that Birmingham has hosted the games, which will feature over 6,000 athletes from 72 different nations and territories.

The former Northern Ireland football manager Bill Bingham died on 9 June aged 90.  Renowned for taking his team to two World Cup finals, he was a formative influence on the country’s footballing culture and appointed its first Catholic captain, Martin O’Neill, in 1980.  His side’s success was credited with reconciling warring communities in the depths of the Troubles.  An East Belfast Protestant himself, he noted that one of his most famous victories – when in 1983 Northern Ireland became the first team to defeat Germany at home since the Second World War – featured an XI made up of five Protestants and six Catholics.

An historic chapel in Aberdeenshire will close after an architectural survey found that it would cost more than £2 million to repair severe structural faults. The former chapel of St Mary’s College, Blairs, a junior seminary which closed in 1986, had remained in use after the other buildings and land was sold.  The Bishop of Aberdeen, Hugh Gilbert, who also chairs the Blair College Chapel Trust, said the running costs and the latest repair bill exceeded the means of both the parish and the diocese, making it “difficult to see how the chapel can be sustained for its present purpose”.  The “massive, cathedral-like” chapel was built around the turn of the twentieth century by the Warrington-born architect Robert Curran.

The family of Ignacio Echeverría, who died in the 2017 London Bridge terror attack while fending off the attackers with his skateboard, has confirmed that a cause that a cause for his canonisation was opened on 3 June in the Archdiocese of Madrid.  His father, Joachim Echeverría, told El Mundo that they had begun the process as soon as the statutory five years had elapsed since his son’s death.  The 39-year-old was dubbed the “skateboard hero” after he was stabbed to death protecting others from three Islamist terrorists, who killed eight in the attack near Borough Market.  He was posthumously awarded the George Cross and Spain’s Grand Cross of the Order of Civil Merit.

Clergy, religious and lay people who have been part of the diocesan synodal consultation processes, gathered at Southwark Cathedral for a National Synod Day. Canon Christopher Thomas, General Secretary of the Bishops Conference of England and Wales, described the event as an “important moment in the journey together as we review prayerfully the draft of the national Synthesis”. Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster and President of the Bishops' Conference, said: “We are learning the art of listening…. this is a hugely important quality in the life of the Church which has not always been present.” Several hundred participants reviewed and discussed the first draft of the National Synthesis. It was drawn from more than 700 pages of material the Bishops' Conference received from dioceses, national organisations, universities, Catholic groups and individuals. Group discussions were facilitated by Sr Bernadette Reis from the Vatican Dicastery for Communication.  A national synthesis team, composed of nine members, had drawn up the first draft. It will now take this feedback and produce a final draft by the end of June. It will then be available on the Bishops’ Conference website. A Synod celebration is being planned for 29 June, in Westminster Cathedral, to celebrate the conclusion of this phase of the synodal process in England and Wales.

The UK ambassador to the Holy See, Christopher Trott, celebrated the Queen's platinum jubilee on Wednesday 8 June with a speech paying tribute to Queen Elizabeth's work to build bridges with the Catholic Church. Speaking to an audience in Rome that included the Vatican’s “foreign minister”, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Trott quoted extensively from a 2015 speech by the queen to the Church of England that attributed to the established church a "vocation to work in partnership with those of other faiths and none, to serve the common good in this land". Together with Archbishop Gallagher, Ambassador Trott planted a tree in the Embassy garden as part of the Queen’s Green Canopy initiative - choosing an olive tree as a symbol of peace given the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and elsewhere. 





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