This month’s E-Bulletin includes details of the next Westminster Social Justice and Peace Forum on Saturday 22nd May, which will focus on issues of work and unemployment facing us as we begin to emerge, we hope, from pandemic and lockdown. It is especially apt that we contemplate a Catholic Vision of Work during this year dedicated to St Joseph, patron saint of workers.
Danica Marcos, Communications and Outreach Volunteer for Westminster Justice & Peace writes the introduction to this month’s E-Bulletin, reflecting on the question ‘What is justice and peace?’
You cannot work for justice without disrupting the peace. Peace is not just the absence of war. It is the lack of oppression and turmoil. True peace cannot be achieved whilst there is still injustice in the world. We cannot remain quiet whilst witnessing injustice, that will not help facilitate peace. We must find the courage to speak out for those who are disadvantaged, even if it means facing a backlash. We must be brave and join those who do not have the luxury to stay silent…
Welcome to the first Justice & Peace E-bulletin of 2021.
We begin a new year with so many uncertainties and challenges. We are right in the midst of this dreadful pandemic which is changing so much of the way we live our lives. Our parish communities will each have their own stories of those who are suffering in different ways: physical illness, bereavements, loneliness, depression, lost jobs, increased poverty and destitution, and the inability to come together in person as a parish community. It’s a tough time and is likely to continue to be so for months ahead.
And yet there are so many heroic stories too of living out faith in sacrificial service of those who are victims of the pandemic, often by society forgotten, through the food banks, homeless services, and the different groups serving and advocating for the vast numbers of newly poor here on our streets. The Gospel of Justice and Peace has certainly been proclaimed throughout these last months in our communities and on our streets. If we can say there are graces of this dreadful time they are clearly visible in the social action and advocacy work going on around the Diocese. Here Justice and Peace Westminster has worked closely alongside Caritas Westminster marrying advocacy and action and so bringing to life the Church’s social conscience and mission.
While so much of the work of Justice & Peace has rightly focussed on these immediate and pressing needs the Commission, sub-committees and parish groups have addressed other issues of ongoing importance. In the wake of Black Lives Matter we have seen great motivation in addressing issues of racial justice in parishes, in the Church and society. Racial Justice Sunday on January 31st will be an opportunity to focus on this important issue. Similarly, Peace Sunday, celebrated on January 17th, will challenge us to think outside of our domestic borders to be in solidarity with those overseas ravaged by war and conflict and to examine our own complicity there through passive support of weapons manufacture and investment.
In a similar vein Pope Francis’ call to care for creation will continue to be echoed through how we promote environmentally friendly projects and policies and raise awareness of green issues, all leading up to a diocesan group going to COP 26 in November.
As we begin this new year of such uncertainty and challenge may we make a new commitment to allow the Gospel of justice and peace to take root in all our communities and respond to the Holy Father’s call on New Year’s Day when he encouraged all of us to work for a peace “sustained with patient and respectful dialogue” and “constructed with an open collaboration with truth and justice,” so 2021 may be “a year of peace, a year of hope.” It is up to everyone, Pope Francis says to take “by the hand those who need a comforting word, a tender gesture,” he said, and if “we begin to be in peace with ourselves,” it will spread to “those who are near us.”
May the God of Peace be with you and your loved ones at the start of this new year.
Fr Dominic Chair, Justice & Peace Commission, Diocese of Westminster
Bishop Nicholas Hudson, lead Bishop for Justice & Peace in the Diocese of Westminster, writes:
Often, the parish community is the first place of encounter that the poor have with the face of Christ.” So says an interesting document called The Pastoral Conversion of the Parish Community in the Service of the Evangelising Mission of the Church. It comes from the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy and is timely, because there is much reflection going on in our Diocesan community as to what it has meant to be a parish in time of pandemic; also what more we must do.
It is in this spirit of openness to conversion that we shall be coming together on 5th December to Learn from the Pandemic. We shall hear, from a rich array of speakers, what we have discovered about resourcing ourselves to meet the needs of the poor; how the pandemic has affected parishes seeking to embrace the New Evangelisation; what has been the impact of the amplified proclamation that Black Lives Matter; how the whole experience has refined our theology. We are grateful to be joined by Anna Gavurin from the Caritas Food Collective; Fr Richard Nesbitt, Parish Priest in White City; Catholic teacher Marcelle Smith, who has been empowering others to talk about racial justice and combating racism; and the theologian, Dr Pat Jones.
The question of the rich young man must remain our guiding light: “Master, what more must I do?” We need to be asking what more we must do, for example, for those who have no recourse to public funds, for those who seek to meet Christ in this time of disarray, for those who are persecuted on account of their race – and more. “What more must we do?” is the question which should guide our Learning from the Pandemic on 5th December and beyond. I hope as many agencies and groups within the Diocese as can will join us in this vital conversation.
Colette Joyce, Justice and Peace Co-ordinator for the Diocese of Westminster, writes about the need to persist in the cause of justice in this month’s E-Bulletin:
“Two images have stood out in my head this week. You have probably seen them, too. The first is the picture of the Kurdish-Iranian family who attempted to cross the Channel on Wednesday with a group of other migrants, desperate to seek sanctuary in the UK… The other picture was of 22 year-old England footballer Marcus Rashford helping out at a Foodbank….”
Deacon Adrian Cullen, Evangelisation Co-ordinator, Agency of Evangelisation, Diocese of Westminster, writesin this month’s E-Bulletin:
At the heart of the ‘The God Who Speaks’ Year of the Word 2020-21 is the figure of St Jerome whose Feast Day on 30th September marks 1600 years since his death. It was Jerome whose tireless work to interpret the Bible, and translate it from Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic into Latin, opened the Scriptures for the people of his age, and through the centuries since.
In the practical work of bringing justice and peace to our world, it is lines of wisdom, stories of courage, and the sayings of Christ, so wonderfully brought to us by Jerome, that feed our every action. There will be words, phrases and paragraphs from the Old and New Testaments that play around in our mind; we may not even realise they are there, but they support us, guide us and encourage us in our work of bringing God’s Kingdom into the World.
In our world where it appears that the divide between rich and poor is ever widening, and that for many people God seems to be irrelevant, the words of the herdsman and prophet Amos, who faced similar issues, may to come to mind: “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream”. This too, is what we strive for… Read in full
For us at the Commission, it has been an important month for conversation and dialogue, as we try and grapple with the ‘new normal’ and reflect on the world we are trying to build as we emerge, tentatively, from coronavirus lockdown measures. What have we learnt to do differently that we want to keep? What do we need to change?
Last week we held a webinar to help parishes and other organisations prepare for the Season of Creation 1st September – 4th October, with people attending from all over the Diocese and beyond. A Zoom recording of the event is available to view on our website, along with a page of resources to get you started. Please let us know about any ideas, reflections and other resources you may have…
We are also looking forward to our next webinar on racial justice on Friday 24th July, 7.30-8.30pm. Please sign up and join us in reflection on our response as Catholics, individually, as a Diocese and as an international Church:
Barbara Kentish, Westminster Justice & Peace lead on Refugees and Migrants, writes: ‘And the lark said in her song, “often, often, often, goes the Christ in the stranger’s guise.”’ In Refugee Week we celebrate and welcome the stranger.
Download the E-Bulletin for more details on events for Refugee Week and other activities