The Church in England Today: an Overview (Part 2)

Westminster Bishop on Olympics and Evangelization

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By Ann Schneible

ROME, JULY 17, 2012 ( With the Olympic games on the horizon in England, followed closely by the commencement of the Year of Faith, the nation’s faithful have a unique opportunity to spread the Gospel, says Bishop Arnold of the Archdiocese of Westminster.

Bishop John Arnold is auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Westminster, England, and titular bishop of Lindisfarne. Recently in Rome to preside over the diaconate ordinations for seminarians of the Venerable English College, the bishop sat down with ZENIT and spoke about the Catholic Church in England, and the pastoral concerns within his archdiocese.

Part 1 of this interview was published Monday.

ZENIT: We’re coming up to the Year of Faith. What sort of initiatives are being undertaken within England?

Bishop Arnold: I think we’re taking the Holy Father’s invitation very seriously – certainly at the level of the episcopal conference: a lot of initiatives that the individual bishops are adopting.

In my own diocese we’ve taken the year and split it into four seasons. The first is to discover what faith is: what are we inviting people to when we invite them to faith? Then we are going to be looking at a second season on the sacraments: how we celebrate our faith. The third season will be: how we live our faith, which is social action, and how we make an impact on the society in which we live because of the faith we have. Then the fourth season will be dedicated to the personal spirituality of growth, understanding, and prayer.

Different dioceses have taken different approaches, but everybody is really encouraging people to take this opportunity to investigate their faith, to deepen it, in whatever way. What we have to be careful about is simply loading more tasks on people who are already very busy. We must invite them to do what they can within the scope of their own lives.

ZENIT: England is preparing for the Olympic games. Obviously this is a largely secular event. How can these games be utilized as a tool for spreading the faith?

Bishop Arnold: First of all, the Church has taken very seriously the provision of chaplains around the Olympic villages, and hopefully their presence will be helpful to the athletes. What we have done, also, is promote those Christian athletes to speak about how faith impacts them as they strive for excellence in their own sports. Many of them have been very generous in speaking particularly to young people about what determination and dedication can mean, particularly in the light of faith. Because we’re hosting so much within my own diocese, it’s an opportunity for our local parishes to welcome the millions of visitors who will be coming to London, casual visitors or Catholics who are looking to celebrate the sacraments whilst they’re here. It’s a very good opportunity. Yes, it is a secular moment, but we’ve also taken very seriously the 50 days before the games of a period of peace, and that will also be the 50 days after the games, per the ancient tradition. That peace is not simply closing down of activities but trying to engage in dialogue and discussion with different groups who are pursuing many of the same things, but in different ways.

I think the Olympics will have a good effect. They are certainly bringing an awful lot of hard work, but I think it’s looking very promising.

ZENIT: What are some of the initiatives that your diocese is sponsoring in preparation for the games?

Bishop Arnold: Particularly the parishes close to the games have devised different things, such as Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament with explanation for visitors about what that means, what that does. The local parishes also have additional lay chaplains to welcome people when they come. It’s very difficult to know who will be there, and what their needs will be. I think the general openness to the possibility that here’s someone who may be coming to the games and there’s an opportunity to speak to them, in some way, about the faith that we have.

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