Pastoral Issues

In the first week of February 2014 the Bishops of England and Wales announced that the findings of last year's consultation would not be made public before the meeting of the Bishops' Synod in Rome in October. The reason for this was a request from a Vatican official. There is nothing to suggest that this idea came from Pope Francis. The German and Swiss bishops have ignored it`they have made a summary of their surveys and made them public. Which looks like common sense:if you organise a survey, you let people know what comes of it. 

Even more seriously, withholding the results goes against the teaching of the Pope himself. Evangelii Gaudium makes much of the corporate nature of the Church, and the bishop's obligation to heed the laity, sometimes by leading, sometimes by sharing, sometimes by following. What the Church is about, he says, is not a process of top-down administration but a life of dependence on Christ and on each other. That is the context within which bishops, clergy and laity should  play their part. He is not being revolutionary. The is the tradition of the Church based on the Bible and renewed in the second Vatican Council - and made explicit in the 1983 Code of Canon Law. (8.2.14)

ON THE PROCLAMATION OF THE GOSPEL IN TODAY’S WORLD. (To copy a .pdf version go to the link at the bottom of this page)

1 Pp Francis begins with a summary of his theme: the world needs the Gospel and we, the Church, are called back to the Gospel in order to proclaim it.

2 – 8. It is personal matter, not in the sense of individual but internal. We too suffer from the destructive effects of being distant from the Good News, and so we too must allow ourselves to encounter Christ daily in order to pass the Gospel to others. The result is joy.

9 – 13 The key word is “newness.” He quotes St Irenaeus: “By his coming, Christ brought with him all newness.” One newness leads to another and that principle works with the proclamation of the Gospel.

14 – 18 Evangelisation covers ordinary pastoral ministry, work with the lapsed and with non-believers. It should be seen as attracting rather than proselytising and seen as permeating all the Church’s activity.

21 – 24. Evangelising keeps going, moving on, leaving God to reinforce the work. The Pope insists on the phrase, “the evangelising community.”

25 – 33. The work of evangelising is part of the conversion of those who practise it. The Pope comments on the need for reform in the various parts of the Church, including the papacy itself. Bishops are recommended to encourage participation and dialogue in keeping with canon law, which refers to diocesan pastoral councils.

34 – 39. The content of evangelising work has to be essentials of the faith. The work is hindered by focussing on secondary issues, although they may be part of the Church’s teaching. The Gospel invites us above all “to respond to the God of love who saves us, to see God in others and to go forth from ourselves to seek the good of others.” Without that, the Church’s moral teaching risks becoming a house of cards.

40 – 49. Evangelisation is flexible; one size does not fit all. Inclusion yes; exclusion no. At this point the Pope goes back to his recurring theme of the poor who he describes as having a prime right to the Gospel.

50 – 109 The obstacles and requirements. This is a précis from the index at the back of the Exhortation.

Economic. No to an economy of exclusion. No to the new idolatry of money. No to a financial system which rules rather than serves. No to the inequality which spawns violence. There are also cultural obstacles.

Temptations faced by pastoral workers. Yes to the challenge of a missionary spirituality. No to selfishness and spiritual sloth. No to a sterile pessimism. Yes to the new relationships brought by Christ. No to spiritual worldliness. No to warring among ourselves. Other ecclesial challenges: the clergy side-lining the laity, women and young people.

110 – 134. It is God who calls the whole church as the community of the faithful to proclaim Jesus as Lord. Equally, he calls the whole world, not an exclusive or elite group, to become his people. In the church we are simply instruments of that continuous divine grace.

The church is inherently multi-cultural. “Grace supposes culture, and God’s gift becomes flesh in the culture of those who receive it.” Because God’s gifts are greater than any human culture, multi-culturalism in the church is not a threat to unity.

Because evangelising is to some extent for everyone, we cannot settle for professionals on the one hand, and the rest being passive on the other. We all mature as we take on this call, and our imperfections do not disqualify us.

Once the faith takes root in a culture, popular piety which uses symbols rather than discursive reasoning becomes an expression of missionary activity; the Holy Spirit remains the principal agent.

Individuals can evangelise informally, even unconsciously, although this becomes explicitly religious with a prayer, for example.

There are special gifts (“charisms”) which are God-given; the test is whether they fit into the church for the good of all. Given that, diversity is not an obstacle, and should not be suppressed by one-size-fits-all approach.

There is also a way of proclaiming the Gospel which involves faith, reason and the sciences. This is the work of theologians who should remember that theology is more than a purely academic exercise. Catholic schools and universities strengthen the evangelising work of the church.

135 – 144. The homily is to be taken seriously. The key aspect of it is not what the preacher says but what God does – He is in a dialogue with the people which leads to Holy Communion. When the preacher gets in the way because for one reason or another what he says is not leading to the Gospel of Christ, the dialogue is broken. A positive factor is the Holy Spirit in the hearts of God’s people, hence the dialogue.

145 – 160. Preparation for preaching.

161 – 175. Evangelising should lead to growth in faith, by which Christ lives in us. As we learn to practice our faith, we internalise it. This section is quite dense. The Pope uses two Greek words: Kerugma: the proclamation, and Mystagogy: experience of the faith. Using the Bible is an important part of our lives for this.

176 – 258. To evangelise is to make the kingdom of God present in our world. The exhortation now goes into the moral implications of the Gospel. All are loved by God, and so commitment to society in effective charity and compassion follows. This, especially the section on the poor, is one of the most striking parts of the Exhortation.

(184: “Neither the Pope nor the Church have a monopoly on the interpretation of social realities or the proposal of solutions to contemporary problems..”)

(185) The two great issues: the inclusion of the poor in society; peace and social dialogue.

(189) “Solidarity [with the poor] is a spontaneous reaction by those who recognise that the social function of property and the universal destination of goods are realities which come before private property. The private ownership of goods is justified by the need to protect and increase them, so that they can better serve the common good …”

(198) The option for the poor is primarily a theological category rather than a cultural, sociological, political or philosophical one. (199) Attentiveness.

(202 – 208) The economy and the distribution of income.

(209 – 216) New forms of poverty and vulnerability; woman and children.

217 – 237 The common good and peace in society.

238 – 258 Social dialogue as a contribution to peace

242 – 243. Dialogue between faith, reason and science

244 – 246. Ecumenical dialogue. Relations with Judaism.

250 – 254 Interreligious dialogue.

255 – 258 Social dialogue in a context of religious freedom

259 – 268. The new evangelism is based on prayer and action. One without the other gets nowhere. Christ is at the centre of our prayer.

269 – 274. Involvement with each other: “our lives become wonderfully complicated.”

275 – 283 We are driven by the Holy Spirit, Who makes the risen Christ present among us.

283 – 288 Mary, mother of evangelisation: Our Lord’s gift to the church.

This is a fairly rough summary of the Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (November 2013)


The link for this is (9.11.13)


Parishes have been sent guidelines on funerals. Some of these two documents are useful. Two points that do not apply in this parish are that tributes to the deceased should come at the beginning of the Mass (local custom is that they come at the end); more seriously, tributes should be written out and submitted to the priest for approval - this goes against common sense and common decency. The texts are difficult to read as they need Adobe, but links to them are at the end  of this page. The parish document is called preparingafuneral.rtf, the other documents come from the diocese. Parishioners are unlikely to be asked to prepare their own funerals!


Once again the borough Dean has proposed that this be discussed, but the reply was that it was discussed last year and so there is no point in going further with this! (31.10.13)


(Responses so far are in italics - feel free to email further comments. It would be useful to know if you are a parishioner or not)

The weekend of 4/5th May produced 8 instant responses. This is the transcript.

(a) Women - of course. (b) Being a Catholic in a secular society. 

The Vatican II documents are important starting points.

Annulment of marriage
We could do with more information about this. 

Who can lead the new parish?

(a) Healing ministry and prayer for healing in the parish.  (b) General faith sharing and prayer support groups

(a) Sharing how to live one's Catholic faith in the world today. E.g. starting from a Bible passage and sharing what it means to us and how we live it. Encouraging each other in our faith.   (b) Going through books of the Bible. (c) Evangelisation and how we can bring those around us to the faith.

The Church's take on mental health and bereavement.

How we share Holy Communion?

And there was one very useful request, although not for a discussion group   - Please start Mass on time. 

In 2012 we started a three year programme of parish renewal to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council. 

After Mass on 29th April 71 parishioners approved of the proposed change to one Mass on Sunday mornings (keeping the two evening Masses) and 17 disapproved of it. The Parish Council will decide when and how the change of time will be managed. 


The Islington Deanery has asked for the diocese to re-consider the minimum age for the sacrament of Confirmation, which at the moment (November 2012) is 14. This was raised at the last meeting of deans with the Archbishop, but the proposal was kicked into the long grass.This is  the report:

Age of Confirmation: Fr. Gerard King presented the Deanery of Islington’s proposal that the age of confirmation in Westminster Diocese be reduced to about 10, i.e. Year 6 of school. This age was thought preferable when considering the difficulties that can be experienced with candidates in Year 9. The focus, it was said, needs to be on completion of initiation, rather than on “adult commitment”. Whilst a number of deaneries shared Islington’s view, others are happy enough with the current practice. One deanery favours increasing the age to 16. Clearly pro’s and con’s can be forwarded for various ages! Whatever the age, the accent must always be on the primacy of divine agency. It was suggested that deaneries should continue their reflections and that this topic be returned to at the end of the Year of Faith. It was noted that catechists and schools also need to be consulted. It would be useful, too, to gain the views of the young people with whom Fr. David Reilly comes into contact as Youth Chaplain. Bishop Alan Hopes highlighted the helpfulness of Pope Paul VI’s Apostolic Constitution on the Rite of Confirmation, Divinae consortium naturae (1971). The Archbishop’s Council will also give thought as to how best to shape a policy.


Information sheets on baptisms and funerals are attached below. The wedding sheet will follow as soon as possible. 


From 6th March 2001 until 6th March 2007 there was a regular Mass here for the large Congolese community in North London. Mass was also celebrated in the French church of Notre Dame de France Leicester Place. A Congolese chaplain was finally appointed and the Mass moved to Highbury parish down the road to avoid any impression that either community was taking over the other.


Despite the natural right of everybody to marry, and the right of Christians to the sacrament of marriage, the Home Office reserved to itself the decision whether someone who came under immigration controls may be allowed to marry. At the end of July 2008 the House of Lords decided that this reservation was illegal. Where it goes from here is uncertain at the moment, 2nd August 2008. A piece on this subject was published by the Canon Law Newsletter for Great Britain and Ireland. The link to this article, written from a pastoral point of view and without the detail of the Lords' decision, is given below.


Igbo Catholics celebrated Mass here on the second Sunday of every month at 2.00pm with the approval of the diocese. There was an internal dispute towards the end of 2010 over amalgamation with the Nigerian chaplaincy of the diocese which resulted in a U.D.I. by some of them. They continued the Mass with Igbo priests from the chaplaincy  for a year, then moved to Edmonton parish which is more accessible for them. 


Results of a survey of desired characteristics of the next Pope: Sunday 17th February 2013 

Honesty – willingness to see through consequences of priests who do wrong.

Priests allowed to express views.


Be more understanding of today’s society and the young people

I am glad that you have been elected our new pope. I will pray for you that everything goes well with you. God bless you.


Someone who led the Church in speking out on the major issues facing the world: of peace, justice and protection of the world’s resources. Someone who invites tolerance of the different voices within the Church.

I am just leaving stations of the Cross attended by 14 women and 1 man. This is so familiar. How wonderful to have a Pope who would truly recognise the role and potential of women in the Church.

Implement the reforms proposed by Vatican II

The Pope that will appeal to the young in particular and also a Pope that will preserve the Catholic beliefs and faith and unity like Pope John Paul II.

Courage – absence of fear. Authenticity. Humility. Guiding desire to be moulded by God.

Younger. More modern. More up to date. More mobile. Good Christian.

We will always uphold you our prayer Holy Father. I strongly believe the next Pope should come from the black continent of Africa: i.e. Cardinal Francis Arinze. I ws lucky enough to be confirmed by then my bishop, Archbishop Arinze. Thanks and God bless you.

A Pope who takes the Church forward in the spirit of Vatican II – not backwards.

(!) Warmth and compassion. (2) Openness to consideration of change and modernization. Esp re women priests and contraception. (3) Willingness to be touch on sexual exploitation by serving clergy wherever it happens.

Open to new ideas. Not over 65 years old. Not Italian.

A Pope will – (1) allow the ordination of women (2) allow priests to marry (3) more black bishops (4) more empathy (5) a Pope like Sister Elizabeth!

The new Pope will believe that the voice of Gd is heard within the people of the Church – not just the hierarchy.

Open-minded on married priests and contraception.

No to same sex marriage in the Church (Catholic). No to women priests.

The following remarks were added the next Sunday

That he doesn't pray to saints or the Virgin but he remembers the work they have done. Dear Lord, please help us to vote for a new pope, In Jesus' name. Amen. 

Tolerant, progressive.

The next Pope should be gay-friendly and not obsessed with gay marriage. God doesn't like any interference with the love (?0 of men!  (Continental writing)

Protect child victims of clerical abuse rather than the clergy. Respect women and treat them equally. Respect and love homosexuals. Stand up for the poor. Promote use of condoms. 

(This one not easy to read)   Somebody a bit younger - who is not on the (?) of retiring or well past retiring. Who is young enough not to have been traumatised by the emerging liberalism of the late 1960s. Somebody who can take on a pragmatic attitude (when . . . . . . ?) to dwindling numbers of clergy (married priests, women priests), falling church attendances, disillusioned gays who feel unwanted by church is . . . .   . . . . tough - re contraception in AIDS ravaged countries, childless couples whose last opportunity might be IVF, divorced people who might want to re-marry in church, take communion, have their children baptised in Catholic Churches. I [something] go on  .... more [. . . . ] perhaps?

Open, understanding, strong leadership, gentle faith.

He should like cricket.

In the name of Jesus, can Christians and all the bishops choose an African to be the next Pope for once. 

Someone not too far from parish life or other community experience. Not someone who had spent mot of his life in the Vatican and does not know what it is to live in the world. 

A Pope who can deal with family planning especially in developing nations. 

The Church is a complex and human body. Please allow difference and discussion to given more prominence. There are of course vital continuities, but the Church also needs to breathe and grow (and even change!)

John O'Leary,
4 Mar 2011, 00:29
John O'Leary,
9 Dec 2013, 04:17
John O'Leary,
3 Mar 2011, 11:12
John O'Leary,
31 Oct 2013, 16:03
John O'Leary,
31 Oct 2013, 16:03
John O'Leary,
13 Mar 2010, 17:32