Inspired by the words of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, spoken during his Visit to the United Kingdom in 2010, “to take a lead in calling for solidarity with those in need”, the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales have sought to explore how the Catholic community in this country could more effectively exercise a “prophetic voice… in highlighting the needs of the poor and disadvantaged, who can so easily be overlooked in the allocation of limited resources.”
Following an initial programme of conferences and seminars on the structure and organisation of Caritas around the world, the Bishops at their November 2011 Plenary Meeting agreed a three-part resolution for the further development of Catholic social action within England and Wales.
They proposed that:
During 2012 and 2013 there should be events in each diocese in England and Wales, organised in each case by the Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN) in close collaboration with the diocesan Bishop, parishes, agencies and charities, to explore the possible creation and development of appropriate local Caritas structures, and to further local collaboration of existing work;
Provincial meetings be held, led by the by the Bishop Chair of CSAN, to reflect and discuss emerging issues concerning 1. above;
CSAN lead a research programme to assist dioceses in this work.
This work is now currently underway. After extensive discussion at their November 2012 Plenary Meeting, the Bishops further proposed that a Steering Group should be established, to:
Examine how the Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN) and the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) might together develop an effective national identity as the two distinct operational arms of a Caritas (England and Wales).
Consider and suggest what might form the constitutional expression of a Caritas (England and Wales), and its development, so as to ensure that its Catholic identity will be clear and secure.
Consider the encouragement of a forum on Catholic social teaching which brings together academics, practitioners and policy makers in social policy.
The Bishops are resolved to ensure that the agencies and organisations of the Catholic Church in England and Wales which support the poor and vulnerable both at home and overseas, fulfil their mission in a way which is fully consistent with the social and moral teaching of the Catholic Church. The Steering Group has been asked to make recommendations to the Bishops’ Conference at the November 2013 plenary meeting.
The publication by the Holy Father of his Apostolic Letter Intima Ecclesiae natura ‘On the Service of Charity’, and the principles and norms it contains, is very welcome at this moment in time by the Bishops as it will provide the essential framework on which their proposals will be developed and carried forward.
Mgr Marcus Stock
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales