Vincent Nichols plans to turn thousands of churches into 'missionary parishes'


The most senior Catholic cleric in England and Wales has announced plans to turn thousands of churches in England and Wales into "missionary parishes".

The Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Vincent Nichols will today urge 21 bishops and more than 900 senior Catholic laity and clergy to set up evangelisation teams to win souls for Jesus.

The 5,000 parishes will not be asked to go around cold calling or knocking on doors to make converts. But they will be expected to train up laity in an attempt to attract people of all ages to the gospel, including the young and those who have never been to church.

Cardinal Nichols will launch the scheme at Proclaim '15, the national Catholic evangelisation conference taking place in Birmingham, his former Archdiocese, this weekend.

HTB's Nicky Gumbel, one of the country's leading evangelical Christian leaders, is among the speakers at Proclaim, inspired by the writing and example of Pope Francis.

Cardinal Nichols said the aim was evangelisation not proselytisation. "Proselytising is a one-way street. It is saying, 'I have got something you must have, and I'm going to make you receive it whether you like it or not.' Evangelisation is essentially an invitation, and it is an invitation which will draw people closer together in their humanity, in their human experience.

"We don't go in for doorstep evangelisation because it is impossible without a relationship, and you don't begin to form a relationship of lasting quality if it stays on a doorstep. What we want is to do is show something of our own life and to let that speak for itself."

Workshops at Proclaim will look at strategies for parish evangelisation and how to share testimony one-to-one. Prayer will be the foundation of the concept. Proclaim will produce a "legacy document" for the missionary parishes to work from.

Cardinal Nichols said: "This is not a managerial exercise to get people into pews. This is genuinely a deep, deep desire to share something immensely precious, immensely life-giving and what I believe is very much needed in our world today."