National Officers’ Reports March 2016
Reports include: - Welfare, Public Service, International, Media
National Welfare Officers Report
Pope affirms traditional marriage ahead of Italy civil union vote Sat 23 Jan 2016
Pope Francis has affirmed marriage as being between a man and a woman only, as Italian politicians prepare to continue debating a law allowing civil partnerships next week.
The pontiff made the comments in the Vatican courts, which mainly deals with marriage annulments, ahead of the vote this Thursday. Italy is the only country in Western Europe where both civil partnership and gay marriage do not exist.
Some believe civil partnership would be another step towards gay marriage in Italy.
The Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi supports civil unions, but other traditional colleagues in his centre-left Democratic Party do not, as well as politicians from other parties in Italy.
Pope Francis told Vatican Radio: "The Church... can show the unfailing merciful love of God to families - especially those wounded by sin and the trials of life - and, at the same time, proclaim the essential truth of marriage according to God's design.
"When the Church, through your service, sets about to declare the truth about marriage in a concrete case, for the good of the faithful, at the same time you must always remember that those who, by choice or unhappy circumstances of life, are living in an objective state of error, continue to be the object of the merciful love of Christ and thus the Church herself.
"Therefore, the Church, with a renewed sense of responsibility, continues to propose marriage in its essentials - offspring, good of the couple, unity, indissolubility, sacramentally - not as ideal only for a few... but as a reality that, in the grace of Christ, can be experienced by all the baptized faithful.
Bishop leads Lords revolt on change to poverty measurement Tue 26 Jan 2016:
The Bishop of Durham has accused the government of "studiously ignoring the views of nearly everyone" as he led peers in a revolt against plans to change the way child poverty is recorded.
The Government suffered defeat in the Lords over its plans to down-play income-related measures of child poverty levels by 290 to 198, a majority of 92. Peers backed Rt Revd Paul Butler's amendment to the Welfare Reform and Work Bill which will now force Ministers to present a report to Parliament each year setting out the percentage of children in low income households. Bishop Paul said the income-related situation needed to be recorded so that it could be assessed with other measurements of deprivation. He said: "There is also a wealth of academic evidence pointing to the damaging effects that income poverty has on children's well-being, including their health, education and future employment prospects. "We know, for example, that low income impacts on children's cognitive ability, educational attainment, conduct problems and mental health, with serious implications for their future life chances."
The government had wanted to remove the focus on low income when considering child poverty because it claimed there were many other reasons that left young people below the poverty line.
Work and Pensions Minister Lord Freud
Work and Pensions Minister Lord Freud said that "life chances" indicators were a better way of monitoring what was happening and of directing Government resources most effectively to tackle the problem. "With all due respect, the temptation to place too much emphasis on income transfers as a means of reducing child poverty is not one that the current Chancellor appears to struggle with," the bishop blasted. "I agree that it is important to tackle the underlying drivers of poverty, but that can be done without abandoning all the existing income-based measures of poverty. "The real issue is committing to, and resourcing, an effective long-term strategy to reduce child poverty, rather than finding alternative ways to measure it." Bishop Paul's amendment ensures ministers must tell Parliament on an annual basis how many children are living in households where the net income is 60% below the average household.
In an act of group solidarity, Christian and Jewish leaders have come together to challenge the government's welfare reform proposals in the form of a briefing for peers. A briefing paper created by the group labelled the proposals as "anti-family." CSAN were mentioned as part of the group of organisations who lobbied to change legislation that was discussed in parliament. The crux of the briefing centred on how David Cameron's proposed two-child limit negatively.
Dr Phil McCarthy has been appointed as
CEO of CSAN. Phil is a former GP and a Senior Clinical Lecturer at University
of Bristol. He has a range of leadership experience including senior roles in
the NHS and setting up a primary care service for homeless people in Bristol.
CSAN?s parliamentary reception was a great success with x parliamentarians and x members attending. The audience also heard addresses from Lord Touhig and Baroness Williams of Trafford. The Cardinal congratulated our members who acted as lifelines for those negatively affected by welfare cuts and immigration laws. He also spoke of the Synod on the Family which he had recently visited in Rome. He described the family as, "the first witness of the faith in society, the first workshop in the faith and the backbone of every parish, the first tutoring in humanity for every person." Secours Catholique, our partners in France, who we're working within the Calais refugee camp, the 'Jungle', came to visit in November. as Cardinal Vincent Nichols addressed the audience about the plight of refugees in Calais. The Cardinal gave a clear message to the UK government, "the plight of refugees cannot wait. People?s generosity, in my view, far outstrips the response of our Government".
Our members and journalists were excited to
speak with the group to get an idea of the on the ground work carried out by
the Caritas charity and to hear about conditions first-hand.
Three of our members accompanied Secours Catholique to JRS the day after the parliamentary reception where our partners (from Calais) were shocked as they learnt from Louise Zanre, Director at JRS, that Britain is the only country in Europe to indefinitely detain migrants. They then accompanied Secours Catholique to the Cardinal Hume Centre where they were impressed by the sheer number of services provided.
At CSAN's fifth successful parliamentary reception, one picked up by journalists and tweeted the most on Twitter. The sentiment echoed in publications such as the Catholic Herald was that we need to do more as what we're doing at the moment to address the plight of vulnerable refugees and migrants is unacceptable. 84 Anglican bishops had previously echoed Cardinal Nichols' call to the Prime Minister to do more for refugees in an open letter and that of our members Secours Catholique who were also present.
MY LIASION OFFICER?S REPORT 1st ADDRESS TO WESTMINSTER DIOCESAN MEETING (also sent to Brentwood)
You will all by now have heard that Liaison Officers have been appointed to act as a go between the Diocese and National Committee. At the Diocesan Officers Meeting on the 3rd October 2015 Mrs Val Ward our National President informed the meeting of one of the actions been take as part of the ?Way Forward? by saying ?In order to give more support to the Diocese and to help with communications we have assigned a National Officer to each Diocese to act as a liaison between us. She is there to help in any way you need- mentor, recruiting, speak at your Diocesan AGM etc. (not to take over). You are not alone. ?
Each of the National Officers have been allotted two Dioceses, mine being Westminster & Brentwood.
However, we have recently been asked to address you all on fund raising for our National Holiday and Rest Homes Service. The UCM has a Charitable Status because of our NHRHS. Dioceses need to be aware that part of the money raised for Charities needs to be sent to the NHRHS: this should be your first charity. In 2015 nine Dioceses made a contribution to this Charity. I know that Westminster was one of them. So you can see the dire need there is to be able to sustain this fund.
It is true to say that not every year has there is not a large number of requests made for help, never the less, if the support of the Dioceses is not forthcoming we could eventually lose our Charitable Status as a result. We are asking you to consider the NHRHS as your 1st donation in the future, it is a worthwhile service and when a holiday is requested is always by somebody in great need.
As a result of Saturday?s talk I was invited to accompany the Diocesan Officers to a Foundation Meeting in a Foundation about to close. The Diocesan President had requested a neighbouring Foundation to join us and bring some of their members who are all young members. About 12 members attended.
The evening went well, the door is not closed and they have gone away with a lot to think about in the next few months. They plan then to comeback refreshed, to campaign anew for members in Church and schools using the new literature, the new website etc. to help. We will then assist as much as we can and they want.
Brigid Hegarty National Welfare Officer
PUBLIC SERVICE REPORT
Designer Baby Concern on Gene Editing Proposals
In the New Year BBC?s Reith Lecture, Professor Stephen Hawkins warned that that next century will be one of the most dangerous for the human race as advances in technology become a threat to our very existence. He advises that we are not going to stop making progress or reverse it so we must recognise the dangers and control them. He touched and on a number of areas in which he believes strong curbs will be needed in order that the scientific advances they contain are not abused.
The field of medicine is one area where Catholics need to be aware of the possible ramifications of current technological breakthroughs. The recent developments in medical science, of unpacking the human genome, is leading to targeted gene therapies as a means of altering human genes to screen out malign ones. However, critics, including leading bioethics lecturers, have said this research is effectively genetically modifying human embryos and it could hasten the day when we see so-called ?designer babies?. New gene editing techniques known have been submitted for approval by the Francis Crick Institute in London to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, the Government fertility watchdog. This procedure would allow modification of human embryos. New genes will be inserted to replace those that are perceived to be ?faulty? and can lead to genetic disabilities and diseases. Embryos will be donated by consenting couples but once the gene switch is done the embryos will not be allowed to grow beyond the nationally-agreed 14-day limit for embryo research. The researchers claim that this new procedure is required as they are close to being able to alter human heredity, although they admit that rewiring the DNA coding of damaged cells or inserting new genetic elements to the genome raises deep and disturbing questions. Scientists continue to worry about what are known as the trans-generational effects of passing on through the genes of future generations the changes that they may make now to the generic systems. Forming new patterns of heredity is not predictable and could lead to problems not yet discovered. There are benefits - as it was pointed out that every year 7.9 million children, six per cent of the total births worldwide, are born with a serious defect of genetic or partially genetic origin. Doctors and scientists want to improve the quality of human lives, but in a culture in which some commentators are already speaking of the ?post-human society? we need to continue to insist on the dignity of each human person and ensure that scientific research should not be allowed to run ahead of our ethical ability to control and use it for human development, not only in the generic sense but also individually. They say that this research could improve the incident of miscarriage and infertility but critics have reacted angrily saying gene editing is effectively genetically modifying human embryos and could herald a time when parents can create their own ?designer baby?. Concern is also being expressed that the techniques may come to be used to create ?perfect? children which would mean treating the child as a passive thing to be moulded to a desired form. Christian Action Research and Education (CARE) warned that we should not be experimenting with the sanctity of human life and that, according to the universal declaration on human genome and human rights, germ-line intervention could be judged as contrary to human dignity and urged the HFEA to refuse the request and allow the UK to discuss the issue with international partners rather than trying to be a trailblazer in this complicated area.
Maureen Hurst Public Service Officer
Women?s World Day of Prayer.
A reminder that the Women?s World Day of Prayer is an international, ecumenical, prayer movement that invites women, from a different part of the world each year, to prepare a worship service through which their hopes and fears for their country may be brought before the whole world in prayer.
On Friday 4 March an estimated 3 million people in over 170 countries and islands will gather to observe the day of prayer, using an order of service written by Christian women in Cuba and translated into over 60 languages and 1000 dialects. In the British Isles alone over 6,000 services will be held. The day begins as the sun rises over the island of Samoa and continues until it sets off the coast of American Samoa, some 35 hours later.
This year the theme ?Receive children. Receive me? reflects St Mark?s Gospel, chapter 10 verses 13-16, and is the focus of the service and a reminder that everyone is a child of God and equally worthy of our love and respect.
The Republic of Cuba is the largest Caribbean island, located at the entrance of the Gulf of Mexico and called ?the Key to the Gulf?. Politically at odds with the USA, Cuba suffered greatly due to the economic embargo imposed upon it in 1960 but has found strength within itself to move on and overcome many of its problems.
This is not a day of prayer just for women - everyone is welcome to attend the service and for further information and resources, together with details of the services in your area, please see the WWDP website: www.wwdp.org.uk.
The World Union of Catholic Women?s Organisations thought that the WWDP was such an important occasion for Catholic women to join with other Christian women in prayer that they changed the date of their prayer service to 13th May. Details of the WUCWO Prayer service will be sent out so that all foundations will be able to take part.
This year the Friday Fast collections made for CAFOD will once again be matched with government funding up to 3 million pounds. This is most unusual as other aid agencies have not be so fortunate. It must be testimony to the valuable work that CAFOD is engaged in helping those who are less able to help themselves. Please support your local groups to achieve this year?s targets. More information on WWW.Cafod .org. You will find lots of useful resources for discussions and prayers.
Please remember to pray for persecuted Christians all over the world but especially in the Middle East and Pakistan where many have been martyred for their faith.
Maureen Meatcher International Officer
WUCWO Joint Statement ?Protection of the Family?
WUCWO will present an oral statement at the next meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, entitled "Protection of the Family", following the priority and one of the resolutions of our General Assembly of Fatima. The statement is open for co-signatory. It will take place on March 11th from 12 to 18 hrs, under Item 3 in occasion of the HC/OHCHR/SG thematic reports followed by General debate. This statement has been promoted by the Family Working Group of the Forum of Catholic-Inspired NGOs ? at United Nations Geneva, coordinated by WUCWO.
UCM has endorsed this statement:
WUCWO and the co-signing NGOs take note of the Report A/HRC/31/37 of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and reaffirm that ?the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.?1 Several internationally agreed documents and national constitutions reaffirm the central and vital role of the family in society and acknowledge the key contribution of the family in fostering social development, its strength in assuring social cohesion and integration, and its primary responsibility for the nurturing, guidance, and protection of children. Thus, States have the obligation to provide the widest possible support and protection for all families and allow them to fully assume their role in the community and provide a conducive environment for the growth and well-being of their members. We call upon States to consider the fundamental role of the family in society and its contribution to development in their public policies and in their implementation of SDGs. Furthermore, watching the worsening quality of life for many families worldwide, we call upon States and international organizations to: ? Protect families by designing, implementing and promoting family-sensitive policies in the field of housing, work, health, social security and education. ? Address the causes and mitigate the consequences of family disintegration, facilitating, as appropriate, the integration of families into society and their reunification, preservation and protection. ? Care for freedom, ?freedom of conscience, religious freedom, the freedom of each person, each family, each people, which is what gives rise to rights?2
1 A/HRC/29/22, 4
2 Pope Francis, Philadelphia, September 26th, 2015
Media Officers Study/Training Day
The Diocesan Media Officers Study Day was held at St Chad?s Birmingham on Saturday 27th February 2016. The day began with Prayers, introductions and welcome by the National Media Officer, Mrs Caroline Mills. There were nine dioceses represented and they introduced themselves to the group and each said what they hoped to learn during the day together.
We were joined by the National President, Mrs Val Ward, who began with an explanation on the role and purpose of the Diocesan Media Officer. The role includes attending the Diocesan Meetings and giving a report, the Diocesan AGM and Diocesan Committee Meetings; Always be on the lookout for a story and remember your camera! Try to establish a contact within each foundation and encourage them to send in contributions for the newspaper. Promote the UCM Website and Facebook page and read the Catholic newspapers to get ideas. If possible attend National Council or National Study days as a delegate, if you have not been before, in order to see the bigger picture of UCM.
Our guest Speaker was Mr Adrian Wardle who was a past Editor of the Catholic Southwest Newspaper and has worked in various roles in publications and media.
Adrian covered many aspects of Media including Media Research ? creating, composing and how to send a Press Release. Tips for writing articles to meet deadlines, working with photographs and the convenience of images and video clips on social media; Adrian also gave a demonstration on how to ?Photoshop? photos to improve and enhance them before they are sent in for publication.
Following the talk Adrian asked the ladies to apply what they had just learned in a practical Workshop which included creating a Poster or a Headline and Adrian was able to give the Media Officers some feedback from this. Adrian supplied everyone with a handout of the session.
After lunch there followed an explanation about the Distribution and Circulation of the Catholic Mother, the importance of correct information and informing the National Media Officer of any changes in either quantity or delivery address for the Catholic Mother newspaper. The National Media Officers job will become vacant in 2017 and the following brief outline of the role was presented to the delegates: Attends National Council and AGM, National Committee Meetings and any other ad hoc meetings. Advises the Media of UCM events taking place attends the Diocesan Editors Forum, which is held twice a year, and if asked attends conferences and Meetings of other Organisations. The Media Officer is responsible for the overseeing and production of the Catholic Mother newspaper liaising with the National President to decide the final content and liaises closely with the publishers CathCom. She is the link with the Diocesan Media Officers and organises Training Days for them; Liaises with the National Treasurer to keep an up to date list of all foundations for the distribution of The Catholic Mother.
The UCM website had been launched the previous day and National President Val Ward was able to show the Media Officers how to access and view the individual pages and how it will be updated. Facebook was discussed and a practical demonstration on how to access the UCM Facebook page and how to join Facebook in general.
There followed another practical session on how to submit articles and photos to the Catholic Mother, what can and cannot be included and how to submit changes to the Distribution list. Mrs Ann Jones had kindly supplied a handout on ?How to Download, Store and Send Photos?.
There was some time before the close of the Study/Training Day to take Questions before everyone headed off home.
I have had positive and constructive feedback about the Day which has been welcomed and the Media Officers? wish to know when the next one will be!!
Caroline Mills, National Media Officer/ Val Ward National President
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List of Intentions the Pope wants to focus on for the month of March