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Polish migrants a welcome addition to the Catholic Church in England and Wales

posted on 10 January 2008

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor has expressed his hope that Polish migrants living in England and Wales will be able to feel part of the family of the Catholic Church and stressed the great value of their contribution to the Catholic faith.

In a wide ranging interview with Polish Journalist Rafal Laczny, which was first published in December 2007 by Poland's church-owned news agency KAI, he acknowledged that language problems may make it hard for recent Polish migrants to become integrated into the Catholic life of England and Wales. However, he expressed the hope that over time they would be able to become part of local parishes.

In a seperate response to recent press comments about apparantly different approaches to integration by Polish Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor said on Wednesday 9th January 2008:  We have to look at the changing circumstances with the shared desire that the Polish people have their spiritual needs met.

Full transcript of interview with Cardinal Cormac Murphy-OConnor by Rafal Laczny

RL. Many Polish people are interested in Great Britain, the main reason is of course is that they can work here but that means they are interested in Catholic Church as well.  Can Your Eminence describe the situation and condition of the Catholic Church in England and Wales?

The first thing I would like to say is that the Polish people who come to this country and particularly to my own diocese are very welcome.  There are very, very many who have settled here in London and I meet many of them in the parishes, so that, for me, is very good.  They will find the Catholic Church here in England strong in the sense that it has a very public witness for what it means to be Catholic, witnessing to our Christian faith in a secular society.  Of course the Catholic Church in this country is a minority church, not like in Poland where most of the country is Catholic.  Here we are a small proportion of the population of this country, about 5-10%, and therefore the mission is to be strong, to be faithful and to feel free and brave enough to express our Catholic faith in Britain.

RL. You mentioned the secular society and this is only one of the tasks for the Catholic Church in England.  Unfortunately many Catholics are leaving the Church.

It is quite true to say that there are a number of Catholics who do not go to Church.  Many of them, I suppose, after being baptised and brought up as Catholics have then decided not to practise any more.  And therefore I think that Catholics, when they grow up and become adults, have to make another commitment of themselves to their Catholic faith.  Of course, I lament when those leave the Catholic Church and do not practise and therefore the task of evangelisation is to show people, especially those who are baptised as Catholics, that this is the real church, this is the community of faith and hope and love, come and renew your Catholic faith, come and join us.  Christmas I think is a particular time when people realise that my Christian faith does mean something even if I dont go to Mass every Sunday as I should.

RL. Another problem for the Church is the liberal laws in England.  For example, this year is the 40th anniversary of the Abortion Act.

I think that many of the moral laws, laws which affect the Catholic Church, are perhaps increasing because the secular culture means that certain social and moral matters, and particularly ethical matters regarding family, are matters in which the government make decisions which impact on the Catholic Church.  One is of course the permission of abortion and I and the other Catholic bishops have constantly fought against the wrongness of abortion.  Its not only that there are other aspects of legislation to do with adoption, IVF, homosexuality that make it difficult for the Catholic Church.  Now we see that certainly what is legal is not necessarily moral.  And ones got to be very careful to distinguish that.  But with regard to abortion, I did say in a recent letter with the Cardinal Archbishop of Edinburgh, in which we spoke up very strongly against abortion, that we ought to do more to help women who have pregnancies that they dont want to enable them to have their children, to help them, to counsel them, and I think thats very important.  And we also said that politicians should, at least as a first step, work to reduce the age at which abortion becomes legal or illegal. 

RL. One of the most important tasks for the Catholic Church in England and Wales is dialogue with the Church of England and with the Muslims living in Great Britain.  What is the position of this dialogue?

Of course the dialogue with the English Church, the Anglican Church, the Church of England, is very different to our dialogue with Muslims.  The dialogue with the Anglican Church, the Church of England, is one that has been going on a long time and we are in many ways very close together.  We have many doctrines and the order of church ministry is the same.  Sadly, there are many obstacles to full unity with the Anglican Church which have emerged, particularly over the last 20 years, particularly regarding moral matters, regarding matters of ministry and other matters, particularly, I would say, the matter of authority.  But that said, we cooperate very well with Anglicans in every part of the country where bishops and priests and people do unite together in a common kind of witness, as much as we are able to do.  And that, I think, is very good.  With regard to the Muslims, particularly, the dialogue is a different one.  I think, its a dialogue for peace in the world, for certain values that we hold together and I have to say the dialogue has yet to grow, I think, and partly because its rather difficult to get leadership within the Muslim community that want to interact with us.  I think, the question of theological dialogue does not arise with the Muslims because we have a very different concept of God and an interpretation of how He speaks to us.  But there can and should be a dialogue, if you like, of culture, of work for peace, values such as the dignity of the human person and the family, these are the sort of things on which, in fact, we can work together for the common good.

RL. Are you optimistic about the dialogue with the Church of England?

I am an optimist, I would say a hopeful person, which is slightly different.  In other words I believe that the work of ecumenism is not an optional extra it is part of Catholic teaching, part of the mission of the Church, to be ecumenical to reach out to fellow Christians and see in whatever way we can how do we grow towards that unity which is the will of Christ and I think when things seem very difficult weve got to remember its the work of the Holy Spirit and that He can do things we cant even dream of. 

RL. In Great Britain there are now more than 1 million Polish people, most of them are Catholics.  Do you think this has changed in some way the Catholic Church in this country?

I think clearly the million or so Polish who are here are a welcome addition to this country and to the Church.  I think that it can be quite difficult in some ways for the Polish people to become integrated into this country.  Partly the problem is language its difficult for Polish people, I think, to learn the English language, to be familiar with it.  But I think I am also anxious that they dont become, as it were, a separate church, if you see what I mean, a Polish church for the Poles, another church

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posted on 10 January 2008

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