Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster gave a speech in Liverpool last week at the conference organised by the group called Caritas Social Action Network, an umbrella group for Catholic charities that seek to promote social justice.
His speech was entitled “A Common Endeavour”. He said the visit of Pope Benedict in September touched the whole country with grace and joy and left many striking personal memories. The visit could act, he said, as a spur for Catholics to serve Christ better.
“Grace must bear fruit in our lives, in our prayers and in what we do as Catholics living in Britain,” Archbishop Nichols said. “At the bishops’ conference meeting in November 2010 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.
“Today’s event marks the launch of a major project for the Catholic community in England and Wales.”
The archbishop pointed to the Pope’s address to the bishops at Oscott College, in which he emphasised the need for Christians to take a lead in calling for solidarity with those in need. And he quoted the statement by the English bishops: “Creating a new culture of social responsibility demands that we all learn from the lessons of recent decades and put a genuine commitment to the good of others ahead of self-interest. It means that the Church must avoid becoming inward-looking or distanced from broader social needs. In his recent visit, the Holy Father consistently emphasised the mission of the Church to proclaim afresh the life-giving message of the Gospel. 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.
“In particular we will be engaging in a programme to enable the Catholic community to contribute as fully as possible to the new culture of social responsibility called for by Pope Benedict XVI and by the Prime Minister in his farewell speech at the end of the papal visit.” The Caritas Action Network conference, Archbishop Nichols said, was the first step in this programme.
“Its purpose is to listen and discern together – to identify and explore emerging needs and the challenges and opportunities for the social engagement of the Church in the coming years. 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. 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.”
Archbishop Patrick Kelly of Liverpool also gave an address.
“After the utterly undeserved visit of the three spirits, Ebenezer Scrooge, born again, declares: ‘I will live in the Past, the Present and the Future.’ And such a people are we: Christ has died: Christ is risen: Christ will come again. And it is good to welcome you to a city and region which offers the opportunity to see, judge and act about the past, the present and the future.”
Archbishop Kelly spoke of the history of Liverpool and added: “But we meet in a place named Hope; hope is not optimism: optimism means restoration of the past; hope is about resurrection; hope is about Holy Saturday and waiting ‘for who knows what tomorrows might be born out of God’s own fresh possibilities’.”