The US bishops’ conference this week has been gripping. Its powerful speeches and shock, cliffhanger election have been televised, live streamed, live tweeted and heavily blogged to millions of Catholics around the world.
It’s not the only bishops’ conference meeting this week. The bishops of England and Wales are currently gathered together at Hinsley Hall in Leeds, discussing – well, no one exactly knows. We have some idea of the topics – the papal visit, academy schools, the new Mass translation – but no concrete news will emerge from their meeting until a press conference on Friday morning.
Of course, it is a much smaller conference: there are about 30 or so bishops, compared to more than 400 in the US. And it is naturally quite defensive with the media – perhaps because of its history as a persecuted Church. But it needn’t be so.
One of the items on the agenda is how best to build on the “Benedict bounce”. But what better way to energise the faithful than being totally transparent about what issues are being talked about and what decisions are being made? A more open bishops’ conference could inject the same shot of excitement into the English Church as is present this week in the US.
Things have improved recently. As I write the text of a speech by the outgoing Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Faustino Sainz Muñoz, given to the bishops at their conference, arrives in my inbox. That would not have happened last year.
Even so, my plea to the bishops is: get the cameras set up. Arrange interviews. Make the voting and minutes public. There will be criticism, and snide commentary; but nothing you can’t handle.