I had the great privilege, as chair of Caritas Social Action Network, an agency of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, to present and launch a report entitled Abide With Me, in the Churchill Room in the House of Commons on November 20 last year. Among many partners, we worked alongside Canon Angus Ritchie, an Anglican priest and the director of the Centre for Theology and Community.
Common uses of housing and land in England and Wales have often become a means of isolating people from each other, with a profound impact on participation in communities. This is the real housing crisis. It affects everyone in our country. It has deep roots in our social and economic history. The human and environmental costs are simply unsustainable.
The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for 2016-30 encourage action on poverty, housing and the care of creation in both developing and developed countries. The Catholic Church has been a major contributor to the goals’ development, especially through Laudato Si’ and, for example, the work of CAFOD and other Caritas national agencies around the world. This shared endeavour and global perspective helps to inform how the Church in England and Wales can promote a greater emphasis on human development and ‘our common home’ in our communities and policymaking.
Abide With Me extends a living Catholic tradition of teaching, thought and practice, nurturing hope and our relationships for the long term. Much of the power for change is centred in national and regional levels of public decision-making. At these two levels, the Catholic Church’s organised capacity needs more depth and co-ordination: to strive for systems of decision-making that truly promote the dignity of families and communities. Over time, local Catholic action can then become less crisis-focused, because our society will better include everyone.
All charities face many immediate pressures. Catholic charities share in the privileges and responsibilities of being parts of one body at the service of all, in “our common home”. Our credibility will be lessened where competition between parts, or over-emphasis on one “muscle group”, prevents the parts from being fully present together and fit for contemporary purpose. As Pope Francis describes, we “walk together” in mission, even where churches have been tied down by fixed assets and fragmented charity structures. Catholic organisations can consider how property is used to increase fresh participation in our communities building strong mutual networks of support. Abide With Me offers a focus for common leadership and language, and for shaping the places we inhabit. I encourage senior leaders in our dioceses and charities to engage with these themes through a deeper engagement in the Caritas network.
Copies of Abide With Me are available from the bishop’s PA c/o the Curial Office.
Yours in blessed hope,