Friday, 29 March 2013

Good Friday and the Cross of Christians in the Middle East

Eastern Rite Catholics Abbot Nicholas and Fr. Maximos sing a service in Holy Week.
On this Good Friday it is perhaps especially important to remember the heavy cross that our brothers and sisters in the Middle East at this time both Catholic and Orthodox who have been in those lands for many centuries, indeed some who can date there existence to the time of the Apostles and the early Church.

As Latin Rite Catholics it is important to remember that the Church breathes with two lungs of both East and West. Below are statements from Vatican II, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.

"The Catholic Church holds in high esteem...the Eastern Churches, their liturgical rite, ecclesiastical traditions, and Christian way of life." (Vatican II, Decree on the East-ern Churches, no. 100.) 

"Our Eastern Catholic brothers and sisters are very conscious of being the living bearers of this tradi-tion….The members of the Catholic Church of the Latin tradition must also be fully acquainted with this treas-ure….In the East are found the riches of spiritual tradi-tions which are given expression in monastic life espe-cially…." (Pope John Paul II, Orientale Lumen, nos, 1, 6.)

"The Eastern Churches have a duty [in America] to maintain their own...doctrinal, liturgical and monastic witness." (Pope John Paul II, Exhortation to the Catholic Churches in the Americas, 1998.)

  "That the Eastern Catholic Churches and their venerable traditions may be known and esteemed as a spiritual treasure for the whole Church." (Pope Benedict XVI, special prayer intention for November, 2011.)

Despite the difficult times that many of this peoples are facing currently we know that the Cross is for all of us the Tree of Life not Death.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

DEC Syrian Crisis Appeal from CAFOD

In this Holy Week we see Christ crucified again in the lives of the poor and refugees of the world and especially in Syria. CAFOD is asking us to respond to that crisis with our financial and spiritual support:

What has happened?
Fighting in Syria has caused a humanitarian crisis on a staggering scale, and it’s getting worse every day. Over 70,000 people have been killed and more than three million children, women and men driven from their homes.

What are the needs?
2.5 million people desperately need food aid right now. We also need to provide shelter and safety for people driven from their homes, as well as blankets, clothes and other essentials. Please give today to help us reach the most vulnerable people.

What is CAFOD doing?
We’re working through trusted church partners in Syria to get vital aid and supplies to vulnerable people. We’re also working in Lebanon and Turkey, to help refugees who have crossed the border.

See the CAFOD video on the crisis and donate at

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Sing to the Lord - Diocesan Music Day

“Sing to the Lord”: A music day led by Catherine Christmas (Diocesan Liturgy Adviser) for parish musicians and all who like to sing. Mass settings, Psalms, Communion songs and more Saturday 20th April 10.30am – 4.00pm (Tea/coffee from 9.30am. Bring a packed lunch.)

Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, Hampton Court Way, Thames Ditton, Surrey KT7 0LP. To book, contact:Ruth Gerun – Liturgy Secretary (01293 651164) or Marie Wratten (0208 224 0632).

Monday, 25 March 2013

Remembering Pope Benedict and Praying for Pope Francis

Fr Aaron Spinelli preaching at the Mass 'For the gift of a new Pontiff'
On Saturday Pope Francis went to visit his predecessor, Benedict XVI, Pope Emeritus and it is perhaps, therefore interesting to share this report from Redhill Deanery where the priests came together last week for a concelebrated Mass 'For the gift of a new Pontiff'.

Ann Lardeur reports:
"Only the Holy Spirit knew that when our priests chose Tuesday 12th March to concelebrate Mass at The Sacred Heart Church, it would be the day the Cardinals were concelebrating Mass in Rome prior to going into conclave. Frs. Kieran Gardner, John Olliver and Aaron Spinelli were joined a large congregation drawn from all our churches; Sacred Heart, Caterham, All Saints, Oxted, St. Ambrose, Warlingham, Holy Family, Reigate, St. Joseph's, Redhill , and St. Teresa's Merstham.

The Mass offered was "For the gift of a new Pontiff". In the bidding prayers, led by Liz Wood, we prayed not only that the Holy Spirit would guide those who were electing the next Chief Shepherd but also for Pope Emeritus, Benedict.

In his homily Fr. Aaron spoke of his time in Rome attending the English College. He had met Cardinal Ratzinger more than once, but a memorable one took place whilst buying cigarettes. The Cardinal was doing the same thing, and on hearing his name mentioned the Cardinal turned to Fr. Aaron. Fr. Aaron no longer smokes, but he could not vouch for Pope Benedict.

He told us the Mass for the Opening of the Conclave was an event not just for the world, but for the Diocese of Rome since the new pope would be their bishop. As a sign of this local aspect the people and priests of Rome are especially invited to this Mass. At the time of this Mass prior to the election of Pope Benedict XVI, elderly Italian ladies had tried to touch each of the Cardinals, so whoever was elected they could claim to have touched him!

Before the Dismissal Fr. Kieran gave interesting facts and figures about Papal Elections. The longest conclave held at Viterbo, north of Rome, ran for 33 months, beginning in 1268. Eventually the roof was torn off the building where they were staying and meals restricted to make them hurry up. Pope Gregory X was elected and in decreed in 1274 cardinals would only get one mean a day if a conclave took more than 3 days, and only bread, water, and wine if it went beyond 8.

The youngest pope to be elected was John XII elected in 955 aged 18. The oldest popes were Celestine III (1191) and Celestine V (1294) who were both nearly 85."

Please continue pray for both Benedict and Francis as they both begin new lives as retired Pope and new Pope.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Arundel & Brighton Diocese Gets an Online Liturgical Calendar

Thanks to Universalis and the hard work of a volunteer the Arundel and Brighton Liturgical Calendar is now available online both via the diocesan website or to download from an app. It has all the feast days proper to the diocese such as St Philip Howard, Co-Patron as well as the universal roman calendar.

You can find the calendar here...

Friday, 22 March 2013

Friend of the Filipinos - Multi-lingual Deacon

Deacon Roger Stone
Photo credit: ABS CBS News Europe
A Filipino News services ABS CBS News Europe reports on the work of our very own Deacon Roger Stone from Arundel & Brighton Diocese:
A British chaplain from the Apostleship of the Sea is learning Filipino and other languages in aid of his mission to help passing seafarers from around the world. Reverend Roger Stone, who runs a Catholic ministry at the port of Southampton among others, offers support and assistance to seafarers passing through England on cargo vessels and cruise ships. “Because the seafarers are away from home for so long, and it’s very difficult for them to get off the ships, then we go onto the ships to welcome them and see if we can help them with practical and spiritual support,” said Rev. Stone. 

According to the Maritime Labor Convention of the International Labor Organization (ILO), more than 1.2 million people work as seafarers around the world, delivering an estimated 90% of international trade in food, fuel, clothing, automotive and other industries. The Philippines provide the majority of seafarers, with an estimated 400,000 Filipino mariners working in vessels across the world, based on statistics from the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency. “I meet a lot of Filipinos, araw-araw, a lot of kababayan who come into Southampton. I must say that it’s a source of great joy meeting people from the Philippines because they’re nearly always people of such faith. People of warmth and generosity,” Rev. Stone observed. With one in three seafarers coming from the Philippines, it’s no wonder the chaplain, who was born in Wales and raised in England, is learning the national language, Filipino. “Every time I go on to a ship, I ask them to teach me one new word. It’s very often I forget what that new word is. So for example, I’ll go on and say ‘magandang umaga,’ ‘magandang hapon,’ ‘magandang gabi,’ ‘kumusta ka,’ ‘kumusta kayo,’ or what have you. ‘Saan ka nakatira?’, ‘Ilang taon ka na?’, ‘May asawa ka na?’” he demonstrated with excitement. 

Speaking to ABS-CBN Europe at the Seafarers Centre in Southampton, he added: “It’s rather nice if somebody makes the effort to welcome you in your own language. I think it just makes you a bit warmer about yourself, a bit happier about yourself, a bit more comfortable really. And perhaps just enhances the trust a little bit more as well.” Life at sea can be difficult. Seafarers can work long hours in potentially harsh conditions, braving choppy waters and spending much of their time in limited living quarters. And perhaps most difficult of all, they spend months on end out at sea, away from family, friends, and the comforts of land, with temporary contracts averaging between 4-10 months. This struggle was evident in some of Rev. Stone’s visits. On one occasion, he said, a Filipino seafarer came up to him and started crying. “One of the seafarers came up to me and just leaned on to me and cried because he misses his family so much. And all I can really do is be there for him,” he recalled. Rev. Stone, along with handful of volunteers, offer a variety of services to all seafarers, from legal advice and logistical support, to communication tools like phone cards and even free bibles and rosaries. He also builds friendship and trust with most of the seafarers he meets, keeping an open line of communication over text messages and social media like Facebook. “I’ve got far more Filipino friends on Facebook than any other nationality. And it’s really wonderful because when they do get WiFi access, or any Internet access, I very often get messages: very early in the morning, very late at night, and sometimes during the day. But it just maintains that relationship and that’s what’s what it’s all about,” he said. 

For Filipino seafarers and the local land-based community in Southampton, the chaplain’s work hasn’t gone unnoticed, especially in times of crises for vulnerable workers. “Rev. Stone is a big help, especially for those Filipinos who are stressed about their jobs and their families far away in the Philippines. He’s been very helpful also in some cases where Filipinos have been involved in trouble and abuse,” said Father Claro Conde, a local Filipino priest from the nearby St Patrick’s Church. Hilario de la Cruz, a seafarer from a cruise ship, added: “Rev. Stone and Father Conde lead us closer to God in our journeys. We are so far away from home and our family, so they give us guidance.” 

For the upbeat and energetic chaplain, his work is underlined by a desire to spread the Christian message of love and acceptance. “Everybody is welcome. Everybody deserves and receives the ministry that I can offer. I’m only sharing God’s love, it’s not my love. It’s God’s love that I’m sharing, and that is very powerful,” he concluded. The Apostleship of the Sea provide unconditional support and services to seafarers through their ministries around the world, with people like Rev. Stone who are always ready to offer friendship, spirituality, guidance, and a helping hand.

To support the work of the Apostleship of the Sea visit their website

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Monday, 18 March 2013

Pope Francis and Mass for his Inauguration

Pope Francis on his election as Bishop of Rome
Photo ©Tony Milner/Diocese Arundel & Brighton
Pope Francis will celebrate Mass for the inauguration of his papal ministry on Tuesday 19 March at 9.30am (8.30am UK time).

In UK you can see the Mass on BBC One from 8.15am onwards. It should also be available to view on EWTN.

In order to joyfully celebrate the inauguration of his petrine ministry the Diocesan Offices in Arundel & Brighton will be closed that day.

Media contact can be made to Mark Woods, Communications Officer on 0752 843 8042.

God bless our Pope!

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Fr Denis Cronin RIP

We announce with sadness the death of the Reverend Denis Joseph Cronin, Priest of the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton, who died in retirement on 14th March 2013.

His Funeral Mass will be on Friday, 22nd March 2013 2.30 p.m. at the Church of Our Lady Immaculate and St. Philip Neri, Newtown, Uckfield, East Sussex, TN22 5DJ.

Please pray for the repose of his soul. May he rest in peace. 

Friday, 15 March 2013

Bishop Kieran Welcomes Pope Francis with Joy

Bishop Kieran in a parish
©Diocese Arundel & Brighton
Bishop Kieran reflects on the election of Pope Francis:
"Even the media people in St Peter’s Square seemed to be infected by the joy that greeted the appearance of Pope Francis, and there is a mood of hope and encouragement across the church and the world.

It is proposed that next Tuesday, the day of his inauguration and the Feast of St Joseph, we make it a ‘Day of Joy’. We have ‘awareness weeks’ for all sorts of things, so why not just one day of joy? Bake a cake for someone, ring your mother, give the children a treat, send a card to your priest, bring flowers home – do something to bring joy to someone and express the joy of the church. And pray for Pope Francis. There is a hope that he can re-build the Church as his namesake did, to put it back on track and restore our pride in being Catholic.

The media have been fascinated by how modestly this man has lived, this son of a railway worker who travelled by public transport and cooked his own meals. Those days are gone for him, but let us hope that our modern world can hear that call to live more simply and modestly. This has been a very timely papal election."

Also listen to Bishop Kieran on Sunday morning on BBC Sussex/Surrey at 8.10am and read his statement on behalf of the Bishops' Conference here

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Habemus Papam - Cardinal Bergoglio Elected as Pope Francis I

Our New Pope, Francis I
Photo Credit: Rev A Milner in Rome
The Vatican Information Service reports: Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J., was elected Supreme Pontiff, the 265th successor of Peter, and has chosen the name Francis.

The Cardinal proto-deacon Jean-Louis Tauran made the solemn announcement to the people at 8:12pm from the external Loggia of the Hall of Blessings of the Vatican Basilica following the white “fumata” which occurred at 7:06pm. Following are the words pronounced by Cardinal Tauran:

Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum;
habemus Papam;
Eminentissium ac Reverendissium Dominum,
Dominum Georgium Marium
Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalem Bergoglio
Qui sibi nomen imposuit Franciscum.
[I announce to you with great joy;
We have a Pope;
The most eminent and most reverend Lord,
Lord Mario
Cardinal of Holy Roman Church Bergoglio
Who has taken the name Francis.]

The conclave that led to the election of Pope Francis began on Tuesday, 12 March 2013 in the Sistine Chapel of the Vatican Apostolic Palace, with the "Extra omnes" pronounced at 5:33pm by Msgr. Guido Marini, master of the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, following the taking of the oath by the 115 cardinal electors.

The first black “fumata” took place at 7:42pm the same day.

On Wednesday, 13 March, there was black smoke at 11:40am.

On Wednesday, 13 March, there was white smoke at 7:06pm.

First “Urbi et Orbi” Blessing of the New Holy Father Francis

Before the new Pope appeared at the balcony, an honour guard of Swiss Guards in full military regalia and bearing the pontifical standard marched into the square and took their places under the Loggia followed by a representation of the various Italian armed forces that, since 1929, have paid homage to the Pope on important occasions as a sign of the reconciliation between the Holy See and the Italian State. The Holy See marching band accompanied the wait. As soon as they heard the name of the new pontiff, the crowd began to chant together: “Francesco, Francesco”.

At 8:24pm, the Holy Father Francis, preceded by the Cross, appeared at the Loggia of the brightly lit Vatican Basilica. Before imparting the “Urbi et Orbi” (“to the city and the world) apostolic blessing he greeted the enormous crowd that had been gathering all afternoon in cold and rainy St. Peter's Square saying:

“Dear brothers and sisters,

Good evening. You know that the duty of the Conclave was to give Rome a bishop. It seems that my brother cardinals picked him from almost the ends of the earth. But here we are! I thank you for the warm welcome. The diocesan community of Rome has its bishop. Thank you! First and foremost I would like to say a prayer for our Bishop Emeritus Benedict XVI. Let us pray together for him, that the Lord bless him and the Virgin keep him.”

After leading the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Gloria, Pope Francis again addressed the crowd saying:

“And now let us begin this journey, bishop and people, this journey of the Church of Rome, which is the one that leads all the churches in charity. A journey of fraternity, of trust between us. Let us always pray for one another. Let us pray for the world so that this might be a great brotherhood. I hope that this journey of the Church that we begin today, and in which my Cardinal Vicar here present will assist me, will be fruitful for the evangelization of this beautiful city.”

“Now I would like to impart the blessing, but first, first I ask a favor of you. Before the bishop blesses the people, I ask that you pray to the Lord that He bless me: the prayer of the people asking a blessing for their bishop. Let us pray in silence, this your prayer for me.”

“Now I will impart the blessing to you and all the world, to all men and women of good will.”

After imparting the apostolic blessing Pope Francis added: “Brothers and sisters, I take my leave. Thank you for your warm welcome. Tomorrow I'm going to pray to the Virgin, that she will safeguard all of Rome. Good night and rest well.”a

Adrian IV - The only English Pope

Pope Adrian IV
Nearly 1,000 years ago, in 1154, a man named Nicholas Breakspear was elected the first - and thus far only - English pope. Pope Adrian IV was born Nicholas Breakspear around 1100 AD, close to St Albans in Hertfordshire, England.

It is thought that his exact birthplace was Abbots Langley and that his father was Robert Breakspear - “a man of humble means, though of a decent stock”. As a boy, Nicholas asked to be admitted to a local monastery but was turned away because he wasn’t thought to be highly educated enough. Around 1125 he attended Merton Priory.

Nicholas was later to visit the monastery of St Rufus near Avignon, in south eastern France, and was asked to stay - eventually becoming its Abbot. When Nicholas subsequently visited Rome on monastic business, Pope Eugenius III recognised his gifts and refused to let him leave - making him a Cardinal.

One of Nicholas’ tasks was to help establish the Church’s structure in Norway - establishing the archbishopric. When he returned to Rome, such was the success of his mission, he was hailed as the ‘Apostle of the North’. The following day, on 4 December 1154, Nicholas was elected Pope.

His time as Pope was challenging because of the activities of Italian barons. Arnold of Brescia actually took Rome, which was eventually returned to Pope Adrian.

William of Newburgh, in the North Riding of Yorkshire, an Austin canon and a historian of high repute (1136-98) wrote that Pope Adrian told a contemporary, John of Salisbury:
"The office of Pope, he assured me, was a thorny one, beset on all sides with sharp pricks. He wished indeed that he had never left England, his native land, or at least had lived his life quietly in the cloister of Sts. Rufus rather than have entered on such difficult paths, but he dared not refuse, since it was the Lord's bidding" (Polycraticus, Bk. IV, xxviii).

A controversial act of Pope Adrian was a bull that allowed Henry II of England to annex Ireland to his kingdom. Adrian was Supreme Pontiff for five years until his death in 1159. Witnesses claim that he died when he choked on a fly while enjoying a goblet of wine, but historian believe he may have died from a complication of tonsillitis called quinsy. He died on 1 September 1159.

Thanks to Catholic Communications Network for providing this information. See their website for more.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Prayers for the Cardinals as they meet in Conclave

Please pray for the Cardinals as they gather in Conclave today that they will be guided by the Holy Spirit in choosing a successor to Benedict XVI

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Diocesan Blogger in Rome

Booklet for Evening Prayer with the Cardinals in St Peter's attended by Maria
Maria who works for Premier Radio and is a parishioner of Christ the Prince of Peace in Weybridge is currently in Rome to cover the papal conclave for Premier. She has a regularly updated blog which you can read on her experience there in Rome at this historic time. You can find it at

The Diocese also has a seminarian, Tristan from Arundel at the Venerable English College along with Fr Tony Milner who is the academic tutor at the college.

Keep reading Maria's blog and following A&B Facebook and Twitter for updates on all the happenings in Rome.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

World Book Day meets Fairtrade

Towers School Book Characters
The Towers Convent in Upper Bedding reports that:
"Pupils and staff dressed up as characters from their favourite books in order to raise money for cancer charities and celebrate World Book Day. There were various book-related activities organised throughout the day as well as a Fairtrade Coffee Morning to highlight Fairtrade fortnight. The event was planned by Dr Frankenstein (Ms Hansell, Head of English) and Miss Havisham (Mrs Taswell, Librarian), but all staff participated. The girls in the Senior School had the opportunity to buy books from a selection provided by Steyning Book Shop and buy cakes and chocolates from the Fairtrade tuck shop team supervised by the Worst Witch (Senior Teacher, Ms Lowe). 

Mrs Baker (Headmistress) entered into the spirit of the day by dressing as one of the many 'Where's Wallys' and judged the Senior Costumes which ranged from an illuminated 'lamp from Narnia' to an amazing 'Fantastic Mr Fox'. The children all entered into the day with great gusto and raised £146:38 from the sale of the fairtrade produce which will go to the Nursery School in Soweto supported by the girls and a further £200 for cancer research from the Book Day costumes.

Friday, 8 March 2013

If you are still drinking wine in Lent read on!

Bishop Kieran sharing his knowledge of good wine
If you want to enjoy a bottle of red wine which tastes as if it costs £10 a bottle, but is only half that price, try Chateau Mont Milan 2010, a gold medal winner at the Decanter World Wine Awards. Who knows about this bargain - our Bishop Kieran! He hosted a wine tasting evening at the Holy Family, Reigate, to help swell the funds needed to complete new parish centres at Reigate and at St. Joseph's Redhill. Other great value wines included Codorniu Brut NV Spanish Cava and the slightly sparkling French white, Saint Michel Blanc Perle Gaillac.

Obviously seminary studies in Rome have an added incentive; it was there that Bishop Kieran's interest took root. He revealed he was fascinated by the many different varieties of Italian wine. He recommended trying something different from the usual popular wines, and has a dislike for "awful Pinot Grigios" by which he means the cheap ones. If you must drink it buy a decent one, but you have to pay for the quality. Other tips included opening Cabernet Sauvignon a day in advance, and not drinking wine with chocolate because of its overpowering taste.

He does not stick rigidly to the convention of red with meat and white with fish, but the tradition has sense in that red wine will obliterate the taste of the fish.

Testing their skills, participants took part in a 'blind wine tasting' which was great fun; they were challenged to identify the area of origin, e.g. north or south hemisphere etc. Gradually people were eliminated until there was a winner. He was unable to identify the wine, but decided it was reasonably local. It was indeed very local. It was revealed as Joevignon Blanc 2011 made from the grapes grown at St. Joseph's Redhill. The vines are being nursed this year by various parishioners this year, but will be returned when the new parish centre is completed.

To maintain a modicum of sobriety, and of course to aid the tasting, there was excellent bread and delicious cheese donated by Chalk Hills Bakery, owned by parishioners Rosie and Chris Robinson. Raffle prizes included a case of wine donated by PLB Group, a firm of wine importers also owned by parishioners. The proceeds from the lively event were about £400.

text Ann Lardeur. photo John Barrett

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Foodbanks – A National Crisis

Columban Father Peter Hughes suggests that Foodbanks may be a short term necessity, but cannot be the long-term solution:
"Every year UN World Food Day reminds us to pay attention to the multitude of people who suffer from not having enough to eat. The hunger statistics are overwhelming. According to the World Food Programme 870 million people are hungry – that’s greater than the combined populations of the United States, Canada and the European Union. Every day approximately 16,000 children die because they are too poor to live. When we read these kinds of statistics we normally think of far distant countries in Africa or Asia. However, we can look much nearer home to find a severe problem of hunger in our own country.

This is manifesting itself in the alarming rise of food banks which have sprung up around the country. From Dunstable to Devon, Newcastle to North London, the National Justice and Peace Network (NJPN) members and others are increasingly involved in setting up and running foodbanks as more people in the UK are turning to church-run foodbanks to cope with the rising cost of living. The Christian charity, the Trussell Trust, reports that 100,000 people have received emergency food from its network of foodbanks in the last six months. New foodbanks are being opened at a rate of three a week to meet the demand. The network has fed almost 110,000 people across the UK since April 2012 and is expecting to feed over 200,000 people by the end of the 2012 to 2013 period, compared with 128,697 during the whole of last year. These figures do not include the many other groups in the UK who are also involved in foodbanks. The increase in demand is being put down to rising food and fuel costs, together with static incomes, high unemployment and changes to benefits. Trussell Trust executive chairman Chris Mould said: "Day in, day out, food banks already meet UK parents who are going without food to feed their children, or are forced to consider stealing to stop their children going to bed hungry.

A breakdown of the figures also shows that while less than one percent of those being referred are pensioners, there appeared to be a prevalence of young teenagers and adults taking up emergency food aid. In the latest set of figures, 14,500 people, 16% of all those being referred, were aged 16-24, a group that makes up around 11% of the UK population in total. Chris Mould, said that while they weren't reaching as many old people as they should be, travel and rent increases and the dire state of the youth employment market had left many of the UK's young adults in a desperate state with little financial resilience. Manchester Labour MP, and former head of the Child Poverty Action Group, Kate Green describes the growth of food banks as a disgrace. "I feel a real burning anger about them," she says. "People are very distressed at having to ask for food; it's humiliating and distressing."

The boom in Britain's food banks reflects a number of worrying trends. As well as rising unemployment, more people are seeing their hours cut at work. For the past couple of years, charities have been warning that a shift to a less generous way of updating benefits in line with inflation, combined with rising food and fuel prices, would make life more difficult for people claiming benefits. Then there is the start of a new, harsher benefits regime, as a result of which more claimants are having their payments sanctioned – cut or stopped entirely – if they miss appointments. At the same time, the state system of a social fund and crisis loans is being wound down, so emergency cash payments from the welfare system for those deemed to be in extreme need are now exceptionally difficult to procure. Around 43% of visitors to Trussell Trust distribution centres nationwide come because of changes to their benefits or a crisis loan being refused. With food prices predicted to rise further and incomes of the poorest stagnant or falling the future is bleak. And all this in a still wealthy country, with supermarket shelves heaving with food!

This is indeed a sad reflection on a rich country like the UK which should be capable of at the very least feeding the poorest and most vulnerable of its citizens. Surely no government should depend on charity as a means of feeding it’s poor and needy? This poses serious questions for us as Christians. We believe in Jesus who was sent “to bring the Good News to the poor.”(Lk.4, 18). In 1979 Blessed Pope John Paul II said in a New York City homily: "The poor of the United States and of the world are your brothers and sisters in Christ. Never be content to leave them just the crumbs of the feast. Take of your substance, and not just of your abundance, in order to help them. Treat them like guests at your family table!"

There needs to be a concerted effort to regain a social justice footing as a basis to tackling hunger. Of course, NJPN partners such as Church Action on Poverty (CAP) and Housing Justice are well aware of the complexity of problems. Speaking recently on BBC Radio Wales, Niall Cooper, Director of CAP highlighted that at least 90,000 children in Wales are in families which can’t afford both adequate food and heating their homes. In the context of growing inequality and hardship, foodbanks fill a gap that is widening week by week and church involvement is inspiring. Yet, Niall pointed out that the number of people being helped, when compared to the need, “is deeply worrying”. He added that the “deeper safety net that society provides is increasingly frayed”. As we meet the immediate need, let’s also campaign against the injustices that have caused the need. Social action must be coupled with social justice. Let’s make our voice heard by the Government ministers who want to cut a further £10 billion from the payments made to the most vulnerable and needy.

Foodbanks may be a short term necessity, but cannot be the long-term solution. If a UK food crisis is to be averted, concerted action is needed to boost the incomes of the poorest and to hold down the escalating cost of food and other essential goods.

But what chance of this in an age of austerity?

Fr Peter Hughes ssc heads the Columban programme for Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation and sits on the Executive of the National Justice and Peace Network.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Rediscovering your Marriage - A Lifetime of Love

Phil, Rita and Fr Andy from the Marriage Encounter Team
Marriage Encounter write and ask:
"Is your marriage important to you and your family? Would you like more joy and romance, more fun & laughter, to be happier and closer as a couple, a lifelong adventure together?

A Marriage Encounter Weekend enables deep communication between couples, no matter the length of marriage and teaches a way of enriching their couple life, it is a unique way for you to revitalise your marriage away from the distractions, tensions, and routine of everyday life. Marriage Encounter Weekends are also open to Priests and religious who want to renew the relationship they have with their people.

The vision of Marriage Encounter is to help couples discover ever more deeply the meaning of their love for each other and their commitment to each other. It's a way to help us to focus on God's plan for our marriage, especially when we are being bombarded with different values and ideas from the world around us in which we live.

Married love is a privileged sharing in God's love – not just for the sake of the couple, but for the Church and the world. Today there is a tendency to devalue marriage to a merely human relationship subject to the ups and downs of daily life.

Our deepest desire as married men and women is to live united in loving affection and mutual respect, and although we all start off with great hopes and ideals, for many of us the routine of daily life and our weakness as individuals, soon exacts a toll on our relationship. Little things begin to niggle and before we know it, our lives are travelling on parallel, if not diverging lines, when we want to move together in the same direction.

A Marriage Encounter Weekend provides us with an opportunity to recognise how our romantic ideals can turn into disillusionment, but then we are shown how, by making a decision to love, we can rediscover and deepen the joy of our loving relationships.

To find out more about how Marriage Encounter can help enrich your married relationship please go to our Website:, where you can find testimonies of couples who have discovered new joy and satisfaction after the experience of a Marriage Encounter Weekend (or try: Details of future weekends and how to book can also be found there. Or phone 01538 385801.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Monday, 4 March 2013

As I See It - Awfulness and Humility: Reflection on Nuclear Weapons

Photo: Alan Gerard
When the awfulness of nuclear weapons is contemplated, the depth of the matter is great. There are so many bad consequences: not only if used, but even from their possession. Persons of faith see blasphemy; the wonderful work of a good creator abused and so much suffering too.

The Christian, brought up sharp by the incredible sacrifice of Christ and therefore aware of the amazing love of the Father, prays. Some, realising nuclear horror is not God’s will, also consider what they might prayerfully do. Not that they themselves may be completely successful (ultimate achievement is for God) but because they have been asked to act in the world. This was how Christian campaigning against nuclear weapons began.

The basic argument is simple: nuclear weapons are immoral, even if they are held ‘only to deter’, because intention to use them must be beyond doubt. Otherwise there is no deterrence. This means that those who countenance them (though most do not realise this) have murder in their hearts. Unrecognised maybe, but still murder, since these weapons are so indiscriminate.

This hidden, internal cancer could be pervading whole societies. As Richard T. McSorley, SJ, said in “Peacemaking Day by Day” (Pax Christi, USA) :

“The taproot of violence in our society is our intent to use nuclear weapons. Once we have agreed to that, all other evil is minor by comparison. Until we squarely face the question of our consent to use nuclear weapons, any hope of large scale improvement of public morality is doomed to failure.”

As well as not realising what lies in one’s heart, I guess it is also possible to choose to ignore or to adopt denial almost subconsciously. After all, this can be a difficult matter to face up to because the desire for ‘protection’ strongly beckons. (You’ll notice I’ve placed the word ‘protection’ in inverted commas to distinguish it from our real protection.) Whatever the reason, those who campaign against nuclear weapons can easily find themselves swimming against an ignoring tide of refusal. They can experience some cold-shouldering and avoidance of relevant discussion. Even if they are church members, they may feel they are held rather at arms-length and have to ‘go it alone’.

Other sections of ‘Justice and Peace’, such as giving to charity to alleviate suffering, attract approval much more easily. Contrastingly, the person who takes a step further and works to try to right the things that can cause suffering, runs the risk of being labeled ‘political’. Of course, there is a spiritual remedy. Those who find themselves distanced and unapproved can, in humility, place their isolation alongside the separation that Christ himself felt. He can give them the strength to speak and act in the right way.

Michael Pulham (Heathfield with Burwash Parish)

Saturday, 2 March 2013

The Alleged Conflict Between Science and Faith

Fr Andrew Pinsent from Arundel & Brighton Diocese sets out his thoughts on the positive relationship between science and faith. It is well worth listening too.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Pope Benedict's Legacy

Pope Benedict with Queen Elizabeth during his visit to UK in 2010
Read a couple of reflections from two  priests of the diocese on the legacy of Pope Benedict - 
This first one is from Fr Rob Esdaile, Parish Priest of Our Lady of Lourdes, Thames Ditton:
Tributes to our new ‘Pontiff Emeritus’ all agree regarding Pope Benedict’s prowess as a scholar, his personal kindness and his shy, gentle manner (qualities which we witnessed at close quarters during his visit to the UK). 

If we ask what legacy he leaves, the most obvious element is the very fact of his resignation (underlining the fact that Papacy is an act of service, not a ‘job for life’). His ministry covered a painful period in our history, facing up both to sexual abuse and to the abuse of power in covering-up such scandals. Pope Benedict battled valiantly, but his health failed. So reform of the Roman Curia remains a task for his successor.

A second, happier contribution was his three encyclicals, on Love, on Hope and on the living out of the demands of that Love in the economic and social life of the human family. Despite its dense argumentation and difficult subject matter, the last of these, Caritas In Veritate, may prove the most significant in the long run. Here, for instance, amidst all the sophisticated analysis of the 2008 financial crash and its causes, you find a new focus on our care for the environment. He coined the rather forbidding technical term, ‘intergenerational justice’ (CinV, nn.48, 50). But that can be re-expressed in these simple terms: we do not inherit the earth from our parents; we borrow it from our children. Ponder that idea, think of your own kids, and then see if it doesn’t change the way you act as a consumer.

You can read another one from Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith, Parish Priest of St Hugh of Lincoln, Knaphill in the Catholic Herald here