Catholic bishops horrified by levels of destitution in Britain

PA

Catholic bishops have warned that the fabric of British society is being threatened by high levels of poverty.

The biannual Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales Plenary took place in Leeds this week and poverty was high on the agenda.

At a press conference in London at the end of the meeting, the Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols said a full exchange had taken place between bishops about the hardships individuals and families in their communities were going through.

He voiced shock over the number of families who are completely "destitute", having absolutely nothing to live on.

The Archbishop said that in the face of such extreme poverty in the UK, the Catholic Church was prepared to respond to those in need.

A statement released by the Bishops' Conference says, "Many families and individuals in our society face a continuing struggle with real poverty and the challenge this brings of living with human dignity ... The divisive nature of poverty threatens the fabric of society."

It goes on to praise the efforts of Pope Francis to emphasise the necessity of caring for the poor, and his challenge "to recognise the dignity and gifts of each person; to resist stigmatising the poor; to persevere in creating the common good by actively engaging in our local communities to alleviate poverty and address social injustices".

Archbishop Nichols referred to the respect that Pope Francis shows to all people, saying that this is indicative of his "abiding belief in their goodness, and their desire to lead a good life". He encouraged all Catholics to follow suit.

The efforts of members of the Caritas Social Action Network were also commended for their practical response to domestic poverty. The Archbishop assured that the network is in regular contact with MPs to raise concerns, and that members were also undertaking initiatives to help meet practical needs across the country.

These include community day centres, breakfast programmes in schools, and welfare advice services. Some are also working with 'Caring for the Aged' to help elderly people facing loneliness and solitude.

The statement from the Bishops' Conference ended with a challenge to the faithful to renew their commitment to help all those in need, with a reminder from the book of James that "faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead."

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