Save lives, yes, all lives!

Dear friends in the Risen Lord,

Welcome to the Bishop’s Blog!

I am delighted to have received a number of messages from individuals and groups around the Diocese crying out for our churches to be re-opened as soon as possible so that, please God, as restrictions begin to be relaxed, the Faithful will have opportunity to exercise their liberty and make their visits to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. Assuming that a prohibition on medium and large-sized gatherings will continue for some time, let us at least pray for this window of Grace to be opened for individuals and families.I am not exactly ‘at home’ with the wizardries of social media and IT but I accept it has its place as a servant of the Church and of the Gospel. My unbounded admiration goes out to those clergy and parishioners whose IT skills are helping to nourish faith during this ‘Lock-down’ period.As in all areas of life, wisdom and prudence and a certain discipline are needed if we are to avoid getting too carried away. The online experience should respect existing structures of Diocese and parish. We must be careful not to encourage people to ‘shop around’ for the experience they want at any particular time. It’s not a matter of having to ‘police’ people’s use of internet. Nor do I suggest we restrict ourselves from the benefits of what is on offer around the globe.I simply make the point that we should not abandon our local parish and diocesan loyalties. We could so easily enter into a competition to draw big crowds, and to be ‘a success’! Many of those who ‘follow’ us may often be drawn away from other parishes. It’s our own flock we need to have a care of first and foremost. We must also have a concern to draw to Christ those who have not yet known Him, or those who have strayed.Another point to keep clearly in mind is the large number of people, like me, who are slow to spend time with a computer or tablet. Others never even go near them. The online experience is only ‘one string to our bow’.Part of the Government’s current mantra is ‘save lives’. Official hospital death figures are moving towards 20,000. This figure is set to rise higher. Part of the distress being caused is the thought of vulnerable people dying alone, and then relatives and friends being denied the choice of how to mark their funeral.Across government and society generally we have seen commendable sensitivity and empathy towards those directly and indirectly affected. May such sensitivity grow to embrace a broader section of our communities, even more vulnerable, and being lost in much greater numbers.I am talking of those who are killed through the scandal of abortion. Since the 1967 Abortion Act they number almost 10,000,000. That is an average of 200,000 every year. Let us encourage a sense of proportion. Let us acknowledge this particular threat that continues to cause so many tragic deaths; no one there to hold their little hand as they are dying, no funeral allowed, no one to grieve for an innocent life lost.While society searches desperately for a vaccine for COVID-19, and whilst society accepts severe restrictions on personal liberties in order to ‘save lives’, why do we accept so easily this far more damaging threat to life? ‘Save lives’ is also a message for the NHS which is working so heroically to combat COVID-19. There seems to be a contradiction here somewhere when we remember that this new virus is not the only threat to life, and perhaps not the greatest threat to life in our times.What a travesty it would be if we were accused of posing a threat to life simply though choosing to go to church and pray.Christ is Risen, Alleluia! The victory is His.
Stay safe and well,

Paul swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster