Back from the Bishops’ Conference Plenary Meeting in Leeds

Hello and welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!

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The Bishops of England & Wales met at Hinsley Hall in Leeds this past week for their autumn conference, one of two yearly meetings involving all the bishops.

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The aim of such gatherings is to strengthen the bonds between bishops, and at the same time permit coordinating efforts to address, where we can, as a Conference topics and challenges currently affecting the Catholic community for which the bishops are responsible.

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There was a wide range of subjects to be reflected upon, some more pressing than others.

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As the President of the Conference, Cardinal Nichols, noted in the press conference, the plight of migrants was a major challenge of our times.

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The Bishops of the Conference reiterated the importance of respecting the God-given dignity of every person, especially those in crisis-points in our world and especially those forced into exile from their own land, for whatever reason. The Christian imperative allows us no option but to welcome the stranger in our midst as best we can.

The Catholic bishops highlighted also the need for much needed prison reform and moderation and restraint in political debate and discourse. Language from political and public leaders which is strident and highly partisan does not serve the citizens of our country well, or social coherence.

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This is particularly important in the light of the recent Brexit vote and the consequent uncertain economic climate in which we now find ourselves. Recent community initiatives to welcome immigrants were acknowledged and welcomed.

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As a Conference, we were particularly blessed to have with us, for the first time, Bishop Mar Joseph Srampickal, the new Syro-Malabar Eparch for Great Britain.

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The whole question of people trafficking was again brought to our attention. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference, in particular through Cardinal Nichols, has been active in the attempt to end people trafficking, which is a widespread affront to human dignity, above all where women and children are concerned.

The numbers of those caught up in this appalling cycle of misery are quite staggering, and with the overt support of Pope Francis, together with many other Church and civic leaders across the world, our own Conference is playing its part in confronting this widespread evil. Safe-houses and discreet reception centres have been set up for those who manage to escape such imprisonment.

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High on our agenda as Bishops was the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults, the strict standards of safeguarding now in place within the Church, and the ongoing task of ensuring that everyone is safe, whoever they are, within the ambient of the Church.

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The fact that we devoted almost a full day of our conference to safeguarding matters and our ongoing training in this area indicates just how important the Bishops and their staff take their responsibilities in this area.

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Meanwhile, the French Bishops met together the week before and the US Bishops also met this week in Baltimore and elected a new President and Vice-President, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles. Archbishop Gomez is the first latino to be elected to this post.

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Theirs is a much larger Conference than ours but like ourselves meets in plenary session twice each year.

As already noted, our own discussions touched on diverse topics, matters liturgical, the financial support for the central activities of the Conference, and others which were felt to be relevant. The daily liturgy, preceding by exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, and time for scriptural reflection, all helped to create a prayerful atmosphere and hopefully will give our deliberations on behalf of God’s people a fruitful outcome.

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We don’t often get the chance to be together as a full Conference, so meal times and moments of relaxation and social interaction among us were very welcome and much appreciated. As a Bishops’ Conference, as we went on our way from Leeds – from our efforts in coordination and shared reflection – back to the pastoring of our own Local Churches, I felt, in very good heart.

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Until next week,

As ever in Christ,

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+Michael G Campbell OSA

Bishop of Lancaster

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