04 December 2023, The Tablet

News Briefing: Britain and Ireland

News Briefing: Britain and Ireland

A new light installation has opened at the Bar Convent, York.
Courtesy of the Bar Convent

Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Vincent Nichols spoke about the importance of belonging in both football and Christianity at a Faith and Football event at Wembley last Sunday, organised by the Football Association.

Cardinal Nichols, wearing his red Liverpool shirt, was among 400 people including chaplains, coaches and former players at the event, hosted by Tablet contributor Adrian Chiles, which ended with a pitch-side service with a Salvation Army band, gospel choir and carols led by Libby Lane, Bishop of Derby and the Church of England’s designated bishop for sport.

The afternoon was produced by Michael Wakelin, executive chair of the Religion Media Centre and Dal Darroch, head of diversity and inclusion strategic programmes at the Football Association. Other Faith and Football events so far include a Vasiakhi event for Sikhs, Iftar for Muslims and soon, a Hannukah event for Jews.

Chiles asked speakers to explain what happened first in their lives, a love of football or Christian commitment, and they took the story on to say how faith was part of their footballing lives.


The Pope met the Scottish football team Celtic last week at the Vatican. The team manager, Brendan Rodgers gave Pope Francis a Celtic shirt signed by the squad with “Francis” scrawled on the back. 

Alluding to Celtic’s recent 2-0 victory against Roman team Lazio, Pope Francis said that winning a match, while “always preferred”, was less important than “the example” of players “winning or losing, on and off the field”. Francis praised the club’s origins in 1887, when Celtic FC was founded “with the specific goal of alleviating poverty in the City of Glasgow…truly a charitable undertaking”.


A light installation has opened in the eighteenth-century chapel at the Bar Convent in York. Titled “Hope: Shadow and Light”, it is part of a global drawing campaign originating in Viborg, Denmark – one of York’s fellow Unesco “Creative Cities of Media Arts”.

The project, in partnership with York arts charity, New Visuality, and installation artist, Nick Walters will see more than 200 drawings from 15 countries on five continents projected in the Bar Convent’s chapel dome.

Sr Ann Stafford said the theme was inspired by the quotation from Isaiah which is part of the Christmas Liturgy: “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow, a light has shone.” 


Baroness Sheila Hollins has been appointed the first woman president of the Catholic Union. The decision was approved at the union’s AGM on 28 November, attended by the previous president, Sir Edward Leigh MP and his predecessor, Lord Brennan of Bibury KC, alongside union vice-presidents including the Conservative peer, Baroness Hooper and the former Labour MP and minister, Ruth Kelly.

An emeritus Professor of Psychiatry at St George’s, University of London, Baroness Hollins is a past president of the British Medical Association. Until earlier this year, she also served on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. 


Bishop Tom Williams, an auxiliary in the Archdiocese of Liverpool, has blessed a mental health centre for pupils at St John Bosco Arts College in Croxteth.

The whole college premises were blessed after the girls’ comprehensive, which has a Salesian ethos, opened in 2014. But the school asked Bishop Tom to bless the Oratory after the space was transformed from a fitness suite into a centre to foster pupils’ mental well-being.

Darren Gidman, the headmaster said: “Our school is built on faith, so it was fantastic for our students to meet with such a prominent figure in the Catholic church and our city region.” 


A nationwide project to encourage local action against human trafficking and modern slavery in partnership with police and statutory agencies was launched at a Catholic parish in Hitchin. The project aims to mobilise local communities across the UK to recognise and report the signs of human trafficking to the police and call on all government agencies to ensure their neighbourhoods become slave-free.


Pupils from Paul O’Grady’s primary school sang at a ceremony where the entertainer was posthumously awarded the Freedom of the Borough of Wirral. Between 1959 and 1966, O’Grady attended St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School in Birkenhead.

The pupils gave a lively rendition of the Golden Girls hit, Thank You for Being Our Friend and This is Me from The Greatest Showman at the ceremony in Birkenhead Town Hall.  Alex Turner, head of school at St Joseph’s said: “No matter where our pupils go, they will always remain part of the St Joseph’s family. We are privileged to be a small part of Paul’s heritage.” 


A priest from the Diocese of Westminster has been sentenced to a 12-month community order with additional requirements, for sexually abusing a teenager. Fr Reginald Dunkling, 61, was charged with indecent assault in July.

The victim-survivor informed police he had met Dunkling in the 1990s at his local parish in Camden. The diocese said Fr Dunkling had withdrawn from ministry in May 2020 and expressed deep sorrow for the gravity of the abuse inflicted on the victim, whose courage was praised by police. “After 30 years, his voice has been heard,” said the investigating officer.


Seventy Catholic primaries and secondaries in the Archdioceses of Birmingham and Westminster have saved over £500,000 by clubbing together to commission reviews of how their premises use energy.

Known as Heat Decarbonisation Plans, these detailed assessments revealed that upgrading building management systems could make big savings through more efficient energy use. The schools then put in place a range of measures including improved metering for gas and electricity monitoring, LED lighting, and for schools installing solar panels these then provided up to half of their electricity.

The archdioceses used Churchmarketplace, a procurement service set up by the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales to help bulk-buy to save on costs.


Archbishop Mark O’Toole of Cardiff attended the ninetieth anniversary commemoration of the Holodomor on 25 November at the Senedd in Cardiff. The Holodomor, the Great Ukrainian Famine, killed millions of Ukrainians.

Archbishop O’Toole spoke at the event, joining other faith leaders and Bishop Kenneth Nowokowski of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy in Great Britain.  

“We pray for all those who died as a result of the Holodomor – the genocide – and as a result of the war that is still ongoing,” said Archbishop O’Toole. “We welcome the members of the Ukrainian community among us.”

The archdiocese is seeking a permanent parish home for the Ukrainian population of South Wales.


Following the call from Pope Francis for the whole Church in December to pray that “people with disabilities may be the centre of attention in our societies”, the bishops of England and Wales used the First Sunday of Advent on 3 December to mark the United Nations’ International Day of People with Disability.

There was a focus people with disabilities are valued in church communities in a podcast on the bishops’ website by Cristina Gangemi, a disability advisor. 


Fifteen men have begun their vocational training for the diocesan priesthood in Ireland bringing the total number of seminarians studying for priesthood for 26 Irish dioceses to 64.

The Irish bishops are currently hosting a Year for Vocation to the diocesan priesthood themed “Take the Risk for Christ”. Recently, 36 men from dioceses across Ireland took part in a gathering in the national seminary, St Patrick's College, Maynooth, to help them discern if God is calling them to the priesthood.

Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan of Waterford and Lismore, who is heading up the Irish Church’s vocations drive, said: “We need priests and always will.”


Mass collections across the Archdiocese of Dublin have failed to return to pre-pandemic levels according to the 2022 annual report for the diocese. The latest figures show income dropped to €29.6 million in 2022 from €31.3 million in 2021.

According to the latest annual report, government-imposed Covid restrictions on basket collections, which came into operation in March 2020 and continued until February 2022, “directly impacted church attendance, which in turn seriously impacted the donations to Mass collections”. Over the same period, spending increased from €28.1 million to €33.3 million.  

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