15 August 2022, The Tablet

News Briefing: Britain and Ireland

News Briefing: Britain and Ireland

The Knock Marian shrine’s annual novena has resumed.
John McElroy

Leeds Diocese has announced that the Burley in Wharfedale Parish of SS John Fisher and Thomas More has been presented with Cafod’s Live Simply Award. A “tree of life” project has been running since October 2019 as the parish responded to Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Si’, backed by their Parish Priest, Fr Michael Mahady. The parish also supports initiatives of the Diocesan Justice and Peace Commission as well as addressing the “cry of the poor” and the vulnerable through supporting the continuing practical work of SVP and Catholic Care. The season of creation is marked in September, leading into more recycling and sustainable food projects.  Working with nature, the young people in the Children's Liturgy Group planted sunflowers and created bat and bird boxes at home and in church grounds. A garden composting area has been created, water butts installed and also insect-friendly flower and shrub beds. Youth constructed a 'bug hotel' to encourage biodiversity. The award is given to parishes and schools to recognise programmes they have put in place to show how they have been living simply, in solidarity with people in poverty, and sustainably with creation. Leeds Diocese already has five Live Simply parishes.

Pax Christi Scotland has called for would-be prime ministers to stop spending on nuclear weapons and spend on environmental protection. In a clear message to prime ministerial candidates Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak, Pax Christi said on Twitter: “We need so much more than would-be prime ministers are suggesting,” and, “take the obscene cost of nuclear weapons from the national budget and saving our common home becomes a possibility.” The UK has an estimated 225 nuclear weapons, out of the 13,000 held by the nine nuclear weapons states. CND has calculated that replacing Trident, Britain’s nuclear weapons system, which the government aims to do, would end up costing at least £205 billion. Pax Christi Scotland signed the Interfaith Statement on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons which was presented last week to the Tenth Review Conference of the Treaty in New York. For many years, Scottish churches have agreed that the use, or threat of use, of nuclear weapons is immoral and their very possession should be condemned in a world that needs peace.

After 34 years of marriage, the 18th Duke of Norfolk has confirmed that his divorce has been finalised, saying: “It’s just terribly sad.” The Catholic Duke, Edward Fitzalan-Howard of Arundel Castle in West Sussex, said both he and Duchess Georgina Fitzalan-Howard had tried to save the union but they were splitting amicably now their children are adults. The couple married in 1987 and have five children, aged between 24 and 33. The duke, who will eventually have the job of organising Prince Charles’s coronation, told the Mail on Sunday: “By God we tried; for the sake of the family, and because we are Catholic, we really, really tried everything; it proved completely impossible and we had to move on.” The Duke of Norfolk is the premier duke in the peerage of England and a Catholic. 

There are still places available at Catholic retreat houses for volunteer team members. Dioceses and other organisations are asking parents, grandparents, teachers, priests and chaplains to share the news of this opportunity with young people. As students received their A-level results this week, Fr Dominic Howarth, who helps look after Walsingham House, in Brentwood Diocese, told The Tablet: “Hidden gem within the Catholic Church in England and Wales are the retreats offered by young adult teams to thousands upon thousands of young people every year. From Brentwood to Newcastle, Cheshire and the Lake District, there are Gap Year opportunities. Skills such as teamwork, confidence in presenting in front of others, and leading a small group are blended with the practicalities of living away from home – washing, cooking, cleaning – all wrapped in a wonderful journey of formation in faith, together with other young adults of similar age” [usually 18 – 22 years old]. Anyone considering a gap year is encouraged to get in touch with their local Diocesan Youth Service, who will help them link up with opportunities local to them, as well as across the country – and even across the world. Fr Dominic added, “If you do start a Catholic Gap Year this autumn, a few things are sure – you will be opening an amazing new horizon in your life, you will be serving other young people in powerful ways, rooted in faith, and you will finish the year with deep friendships and a fresh understanding of your Catholic faith.” RG (More details at thetablet.co.uk/blogs)

Tributes have been paid to Brother Kevin Crowley, founder of the Capuchin Day Centre in Dublin for the homeless, who has announced he is retiring from his role. Archbishop Dermot Farrell praised the 87-year-old friar for his devoted his life to the service of the poor. He said it had transformed the lives of those who availed of the services at the centre, from misery and despair to hope and love. “As Brother Kevin retires, we should remember the poor we still have with us, in ever greater numbers because of wars, famine, drug and alcohol addiction,” the Archbishop of Dublin said. Bro Kevin founded the Capuchin Day Centre in 1969. It began by providing 50 meals a day and by 2018, when Pope Francis visited, it was providing over 800 meals a day as well as providing food vouchers to families in need. Separately, members of the Capuchin community in Carlow are to move to different houses around the country as their presence in the town ends after 44 years.  

The Knock Marian shrine’s annual novena has resumed with the theme this year of  “A Journey in Hope”. Running from Sunday 14 until Monday 22 August, the novena is expected to attract over 8,000 pilgrims each day. On each of the nine days of the novena, guest speakers will speak to pilgrims about a particular aspect of the faith: this year the novena will include a special Synod tent and hear from Dr Nicola Brady, Chair of the Irish Synodal Steering Group. Knock has been a focal point of the Irish Church since 1879, when an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary made the small village famous across the island. Opening the National Novena at Knock Shrine on Sunday, Bishop of Meath Tom Deenihan lamented Irish catholics’ tendency to be more hopeless than hopeful. In his homily, he said the concepts of joy and hope are ones that have become more and more absent from the lives of people in Ireland and in the Irish church. “Maybe it is an Irish thing, but joy is not a word that one immediately or readily associates with faith, belief, or indeed with religious observance. Indeed, I think we have laboured for a long time under the view that if something is enjoyable, it is either sinful or bad for us – a sort of Jansenistic interpretation of life that sees suffering and hardship as virtue.” For the believer, he acknowledged, the perception of the church, and the experience of church in Ireland recently, has been of “no great source of joy or hope”. Declining vocations, fewer attendees, much less income, and loss in prestige, influence and reputation –  much of it self-inflicted through the abuse scandals – had caused despair and lack of joy and a lack of hope. But he said that the “fundamental or basic reaction of any Christian to suffering must be hope, because hope brings in endurance in suffering”.








Censured cleric Fr Tony Flannery, has challenged the Irish bishops over their support for synodality and encouraging this “radical new way of being Church” while standing by and doing nothing about his situation. Writing in his blog, the 75-year-old Redemptorist noted that the Church is a very different reality now to what it was when he was suspended indefinitely from ministry over ten years ago. He noted that Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, one of Pope Francis’ closest advisers, had recently said clerical celibacy should be optional. His view was echoed by Archbishop Heiner Koch of Berlin while Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg had called for a change in Catholic teaching on homosexuality. “As everything changes so radically around us in the Church, am I going to be left ‘in limbo’ for the rest of my life, however long or short that may be?” Fr Flannery challenged, and he also hit out at the Superior General of the Redemptorists, Fr Michael Brehl, asking how he could justify continuing to impose the 2012 sentence.  



The Church on the island of Ireland is at “a critical point,” the Bishop of Derry has said. In his homily last weekend, Bishop Donal McKeown said that although the model of Church which existed 50 years ago had its strengths, it was scarred by sin and the abuse of power. The Church today, he said, faces the process of discerning where sin has to be fought and where sin is destroying and enslaving people. “It is easy to flee from the harsh realities of our society and seek solace in a private Jesus. But he wants us to be part of the struggle between the Kingdom of God and the reign of sin.” However, Bishop McKeown warned that this would not be easy. “It will involve looking at where the Church and its structures have developed in ways that do not promote the values of Jesus. It means speaking out against the powerful in society who benefit from the way society and education are set up.” Christians, he underlined, always bring a message of hope. But hope is “not merely keeping your fingers crossed that things might get better”. Hope, he said, means “acknowledging the past and all its pain. It involves recognising the reality of sin in our lives and in the lives of others from whom we might have expect more and better.”


A 25 year old homeless man, whose arson attack destroyed a historic Glasgow church has been warned that he faces a long jail sentence. Judge Lady Scott adjourned the case until September 7 at the High Court in Stirling in order for medical reports to be prepared, but said that she was thinking of an “extended sentence”. Ryan Haggerty’s defence lawyer said that he had suffered “multiple adverse childhood experiences” and had a history of chronic substance abuse. A preliminary psychiatric report said that Haggery’s “maturity” was also in question. The fire last year largely destroyed St Simon’s Church and it is unclear whether the Archdiocese of Glasgow will be able to fund a multi-million pound rebuilding. Sister Mary Ross was living in the presbytery next to the church when the fire was set. The 79 year old was able to escape, but collapsed on seeing the destruction. Haggerty was witnessed at the scene, covered in soot, and though he denied involvement to bystanders at the time, he pled guilty in court. BM


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