Cardinal deplores 'extreme and shameful poverty' in Britain
posted on 05 April 2006
Pledges London parishes to stand up for migrant workers
Even after record spending on welfare, contemporary Britain still has 'extreme and shameful poverty', the Cardinal will tell a Cambridge conference this afternoon.
Speaking at Corpus Christicollege at the annual conference of the Catholic bishops’ social action lobby Caritas, the Cardinal said that the safety net of the welfare state was ‘full of holes’ which ‘increasing numbers of people’ fall through.
“It is a kind of poverty which is not purely material, but which involves great anguish and suffering. It is multidimensional, where the welfare state is too often one-dimensional,” the Cardinal said.
The Cardinal’s critique was made as part of a reflection on Pope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est. The title of the talk, ‘The practice of love by the Church as a community of love’ is taken from the title of Part II of the encyclical, which is concerned with the role of church charities in contemporary society.
The Cardinal also complained that “Faith-based organisations competing for public funds often feel marginalised, because of the difficulty of using taxation for what are perceived to be religious organisations”. The obstacles remain, he said, “despite the commitment by Government and the other parties to eliminating this barrier”.
The Cardinal also called on Catholics in England and Wales to commit to social action on behalf of the poor, action which he said “must start with the Church, as God’s family on earth, looking to its own congregations and understanding their needs.”
He said the congregations of Britain’s major cities are increasingly made up of migrant workers, people whose “precarious living standards impose terrible burdens on their families”.
“People whom every Sunday we stand alongside in the pews need us to stand alongside them in their need of justice and charity. We can only do this when we understand their needs, when we enter into their lives,” he says in the speech.
Together with the bishops of Southwark and Brentwood, the Cardinal has commissioned research into the position of migrant workers in London parishes, and is inviting workers to a Mass concelebrated by the three bishops on 1 May.
The Cardinal said:
“I hope that this Mass on the Feast of St Jospeh the Worker will send a message to our parishes: that these are the new members of God’s family in England and Wales, and they must be tended to if we are to bring God’s liberating love into our contemporary cities.”
The practice of love by the Church as a community of love
Address by the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, to the Caritas annual conference, Corpus ChristiCollege, University of Cambridge, 4 April 2006.
I have taken the title for this talk from Pope Benedict’s magnificent first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est. The title of Part II - “Caritas – the practice of love by the Church as a community of love” - could well serve as a banner or slogan for our own voice on social justice and care in England and Wales, Caritas Social Action, and for this conference here at Corpus Christi; and, indeed, for the work that you all so faithfully do.
What you do is engage very directly in the proclamation of the Gospel in contemporary British society. By your work and your advocacy you draw attention to those who have drawn the “short straw”, as one of the Caritas campaigns is called; and you allow them to experience something of God’s loving concern. For those people whom you help and support, the knowledge that you care, that you are willing to put time and energy into helping them break out of the traps and dead ends in which they find themselves, enables them so often to find hope in the midst of despair, and life and meaning in the midst of death and darkness. What else is this but the Gospel in action, spreading its liberation through the places where men and women actually live? It is, and is called to be ever more deeply, “the practice of love by the Church as a community of love”.
You do not need me to tell you how to do that; for it seems to me you do it very well. But I want you to know, on behalf of the Catholic community and the wider Christian community, how essential is your work. The word “essential” is not mine, but the Pope’s. There it is, in black and white, with the full weight of the Magisterium behind it: charity is described in Deus Caritas Est as “one of the Church’s essential activities, along with the administration of the Sacraments and the proclamation of the Word”. In case the point has not been made clearly enough, Pope Benedict a few lines down repeats it: “The Church cannot neglect the service of charity any more than she can neglect the Sacraments and the Word”. She cannot neglect it because charity, caritas, is a constituent of the essential mission of the Church, which is to act as a channel of God’s saving action. When a person, or a family, become trapped in social or economic structures which suppress their transcendent dignity, they are not free; they are bound by the consequences of sin. The Church forgets herself if she ignores the consequences of sin, and fails to free humanity from those effects. God, in Christ, redeems not only the individual person but also the social relations existing between peoples in society. Just as the effect of injustice is felt beyond the individual, so too is the redemptive power of liberating love. Ubi caritas, Deus tibi est – “where love is, there God is”.
Over Christmas I was in Sri Lanka, on a visit organised by Cafod to the tsunami-devasted coastal areas. On the east coast, in a place called Batticaloa, I was taken from village to village to visit and open