And the survey says: Catholic Church on mission

(Photo: Mazur/

The Catholic Church made the headlines earlier this month following the Vatican's announcement of an unprecedented opinion poll of believers worldwide.

The survey covers previously taboo topics such as pastoral care for same-sex couples and the marginalisation of divorced Catholics, and comes at the end of 'The Year of Faith' called for by Pope Benedict and continued by Pope Francis.

The Year of Faith had two aims for Catholic believers: to deepen their appreciation of faith, and to rediscover an enthusiasm for sharing that faith with others. The survey aims to look at the measurable benefits of the past year, and it is hoped that it will help with the question of how to end it well; "Crossing the Threshold" into a new season for the Church.

It marks the revolutionary attitude of Pope Francis, who it is thought plans to bring huge reformation to the Church, not so much in terms of a change in policies, but in the form of a real desire to revise attitudes towards Catholicism and to transform the way in which the Church responds to and engages with real life issues.

Following the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales Plenary held in Leeds last week, Archbishop Vincent Nichols said that Pope Francis "is keen to promote an outward focus [and] a paradigm shift from ordained to lay lead leadership".

"He wants to animate evangelism, and encourage genuine friendship, listening and accompaniment," the Archbishop noted, speaking of evangelism "not as a matter of programmes, but as a paradigm, effecting a change in mindset".

This indicates a shift in the focus of mission in the Catholic Church. The "Crossing the Threshold" project seeks to ensure that real and honest relationships are built with all those seeking to connect and reconnect with the Church, and to put a greater focus on pastoral care.

Archbishop Nichols went on to discuss projects that will see lay people at a local level creating cell groups and "walking alongside those in need". He commented on the importance of everyone feeling welcomed and accepted, and spoke of the need of the Church to demonstrate a willingness to listen, and "to adapt to the needs of real people in real life situations".

The Catholic Church and Church of England are planning to work alongside one another in this new journey, and this Friday will mark the beginning of a series of meetings to discuss mission and evangelism.