Church in England Promoting More Social Engagement

Conference Notes a Yearning for Richer Community Experience

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LIVERPOOL, England, FEB. 1, 2011 (Zenit.org).- In a society marked not only by “severe economic issues,” but also by “serious social ills,” leaders of the Church in England and Wales are seeking to promote the the social engagement of the Church in the coming years.

A conference today in Liverpool titled “A Common Endeavor” was the first step toward the goal, which was addressed in November as a need seen by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. The conference gathered representatives from the dioceses and charitable organizations, in particular from member organizations of CSAN (Caritas Social Action Network).

Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster addressed the gathering today, recalling Benedict XVI’s visit to the United Kingdom last September. 

“At the bishops’ conference meeting in November 2010, we reflected deeply on the wonderful graces which the visit of the Holy Father brought to our Church and our country,” he said. “And we set out to find ways in which we, as a Catholic community, could respond to the challenge posed by the Holy Father and by the times in which we live.” 

Archbishop Nichols recalled the Pope’s exhortation that Christians “take a lead in calling for solidarity with those in need.” 

He further noted the bishops’ statement of intent to respond to that call. Citing that statement, he spoke of the “extremely difficult decisions” being made by government officials, and the call “not to lose sight of the moral imperative of caring for those most in need, while acting fairly and impartially.” 

“Catholic social teaching,” the archbishop continued, “reminds us that the key to social development lies in placing the good of the human person center-stage. In that perspective marriage, family life, and the dignity of work are vitally important. […] 

“Besides the severe economic issues facing us, there are also serious social ills. Many yearn for a richer community life, a society characterized by stronger social bonds and a greater acceptance of our mutual responsibilities.” 

Genuine commitment 

Archbishop Nichols said that bringing about such a society requires a “common endeavor” that extends beyond politics. 

It requires, he said, “a genuine commitment to the good of others ahead of self-interest.” 

And, the prelate asserted, it means the Church “must avoid becoming inward-looking or distanced from broader social needs.” 

“In his recent visit, the Holy Father consistently emphasized the mission of the Church to proclaim afresh the life-giving message of the Gospel,” the archbishop noted. “The Church does not exist for her own sake, but for the healing and flourishing of humanity. In coming months we will be seeking to strengthen our work in partnership with other Christians, other religions and with central and local government to help promote a more compassionate, fair and just society.” 

The archbishop went on to explain that today’s conference was to identify needs, challenges and opportunities 

“If we are to have a real impact, of course we need a full understanding of the issues posed by today’s economic and social environment,” he said. “But most crucially we also need a realistic assessment of our own capabilities, of the things that prevent us doing more, and indeed of our own potential to contribute more clearly to the good of our society.” 

“[T]his project we are embarking on together is not about a short-term response to particularly difficult economic circumstances,” he added. “It is about the long-term and how we conduct ourselves to bear lasting fruit.” 

Caritas 

The archbishop then focused on teaching and action. 

He noted opportunities for engaging in public debate, calling on the riches of Catholic social doctrine. 

“In the social doctrine of the Church, particularly as expressed in ‘Caritas in Veritate,’ we have a source of practical guidance and profound wisdom relevant to all who desire to recover a stronger sense of a more humane civil society,” he said. 

Regarding action, the prelate noted that the Church’s social action already “takes place quietly and on a much greater scale than many realize.” 

Still, there is “a particular opportunity to re-imagine and re-invigorate the work we do,” he said. “We have at the heart of our theology a word which beautifully describes this practical expression of Christian love: Caritas. My hope and prayer for the work we are doing together today and in the coming months is that this idea of Caritas will become more visibly the shared inspiration for Catholic social action in England and Wales. For it is a common endeavor at the service of those in need, and always to the glory of the One in whose name we are called to that service.” 

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On the Net: 

For more information: www.caritas-socialaction.org.uk/

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