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London cardinal calls detonation on train ‘another cowardly attack’

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LONDON — Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster described the attempted bombing of a rush hour Tube train in London as “yet another cowardly attack” and said he was praying for the 22 people being treated for burns and other injuries.

The device detonated Sept. 15 on a London Underground train but failed to explode as intended.

An injured woman is led away following a blast caused by an improvised explosive device on a London Underground train Sept. 15. The blast injured more than a dozen people and is being treated as terrorism by police investigators. (CNS photo/Luke MacGregor, Reuters)

It nevertheless shot a “wall of fire” through carriages, injuring passengers, including a 10-year-old boy. No one was killed.

Cardinal Nichols later issued a statement to express his horror at the fifth terrorist attack in the U.K. this year.

“I am dismayed at yet another cowardly attack on innocent people, including young children, as they were commuting to work and school this morning,” said Cardinal Nichols, president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

“I pray for all who were injured in the blast and in the ensuing stampede, and for all who were affected by the incident,” he said. “May God grant them and all Londoners peace and strengthen our resolve to stand against such evil acts.”

The cardinal, whose diocese covers the Parsons Green station where the attack took place, also praised the emergency services who tended to the victims as well as the residents and workers in the area who offered them safety and comfort.

Cardinal Nichols said: “The generous actions of those who rushed to tend to the wounded and those who were in shock demonstrate all that is good in humanity as a small number seek to divide our society. We should all be alert, but remain calm.”

The bomb, placed inside a builder’s bucket and covered by a shopping bag, was described as an “improvised explosive device” by police.

It included a timer, indicating that the bomber left the device on the train before it was meant to explode.

Detectives say they have identified the bomber using CCTV images but have so far declined to name him publicly.

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English bishops condemn rise in attacks on foreigners after Brexit vote

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Catholic News Service

MANCHESTER, England — Catholic bishops condemned a sharp rise in xenophobic and racist attacks following Britain’s vote to leave the European Union.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster said the “upsurge of racism, of hatred toward others is something we must not tolerate.”

“We have to say this is simply not acceptable in a humane society, and it should never be provoked or promoted,” he said.

Monika Cyrek, a Polish national who works in a grocery store that sells mostly Polish products, poses for a photograph June 18 in Walton-on-Thames, England. "If we're not wanted here, probably a lot of people will leave and try other places," said Cyrek. (CNS photo/Peter Nicholls, Reuters)

Monika Cyrek, a Polish national who works in a grocery store that sells mostly Polish products, poses for a photograph June 18 in Walton-on-Thames, England. “If we’re not wanted here, probably a lot of people will leave and try other places,” said Cyrek. (CNS photo/Peter Nicholls, Reuters)

The June 28 statement from Cardinal Nichols, president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, came a day after the National Police Chiefs’ Council revealed that of 85 complaints of hate crime were received between June 23, the day of the referendum on United Kingdom membership in the EU, and June 26.

The figure represented a 57 percent increase in such offenses in a similar period just a month earlier.

Xenophobic incidents included the vandalism of the buildings of a Polish social and cultural association in London and the verbal abuse of foreigners on a tram in Manchester, a film of which was sent to Channel 4 News June 28.

Far-right nationalists at a rally in Newcastle June 25 unfurled a banner that demanded: “Stop Immigration, Start Repatriation” and, on June 28, a German woman who has lived in Britain since the 1970s wept as she told LBC London radio that she was too scared to leave her house three days after dog excrement was thrown at her windows.

She said: “My neighbors told me that they don’t want me living in this road and that they are not friends with foreigners.”

“My friend … has a grandson who is 7 and who was beaten up because he has a foreign grandmother,” she added.

Britain has been a primary destination for many citizens of poorer EU countries, with annual net migration reaching 330,000 people a year. Many of the migrants to the U.K. are Catholics from Central Europe, Asia and Africa.

Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth said in a June 28 telephone interview that, in his diocese, there were “huge numbers of immigrants from Poland, Kerala (India), the Philippines and Nigeria.”

“I am extremely sad to think of violence against foreign people who are living here,” he said. “There is no justification whatsoever for that.

“Many of these immigrants are already beloved members of our communities. They have contributed to local life and organizations,” he said.

“Britain has always, through the centuries, been a country which has assimilated people from abroad, and they have taken on our values, and also they have made us proud because they have made a great success of it,” Bishop Egan said.

“Both materially and spiritually, the vast majority of people who are working here and in our diocese are making a wonderful contribution,” he added. “To think of violence against them is self-destructive. It is self-harm. We are harming ourselves as much as we are inflicting division and suffering on others.”

Bishop Declan Lang of Clifton, the diocese based in Bristol, also issued a statement telling Catholics that it was important “to work for the common good and not create barriers of division and prejudice.”

“We should have a profound respect for one another, and this should be reflected in the way we speak and behave,” said the statement posted on the diocesan website June 27.

“We need to keep in mind the needs of all citizens, particularly those who may feel marginalized at this present moment, and continue to be a tolerant society, free of racial and religious prejudice,” he said.

Concerns over the phenomenon of mass migration, and the apparent inability of the U.K. to control its borders, had helped to fuel efforts to take Britain out of the EU in a referendum won by the “Leave” campaigners, with the public voting 52-48 percent to withdraw from the bloc.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, who had fought for the U.K. to remain inside the EU, announced his resignation June 24.

In the weeks before the referendum, national newspapers such as the Mail on Sunday had exposed how far-right nationalists, including neo-Nazis, had been actively campaigning on the Leave side.

Witold Sobkow, Poland’s ambassador to the U.K., expressed shock at the surge in xenophobic abuse.

Cameron told the House of Commons June 27 that such crimes must be stamped out. “We will not stand for hate crime or these kinds of attacks,” he said.

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English Cardinal welcomes Britain’s U-turn on resettling child refugees

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Catholic News Service

Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster has welcomed a U-turn by the British government over the resettlement of child refugees. Read more »

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British cardinal expects generous response to EU’s migrant crisis

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LONDON — Images of drowned refugees are causing the British people to cry out for a more generous response to the migrant crisis engulfing Europe, said an English cardinal.

Syrian refugees jump off a boat as they arrive on the Greek island of Lesbos Sept. 3. The International Organization for Migration says 1,500-2,000 refugees are taking the route through Greece, Macedonia and Serbia to Hungary every day and that there is "a real possibility" the flow could rise to 3,000 daily. (CNS photo/Dimitris Michalakis, Reuters)

Syrian refugees jump off a boat as they arrive on the Greek island of Lesbos Sept. 3. The International Organization for Migration says 1,500-2,000 refugees are taking the route through Greece, Macedonia and Serbia to Hungary every day and that there is “a real possibility” the flow could rise to 3,000 daily. (CNS photo/Dimitris Michalakis, Reuters)

Speaking to ITV News Sept. 2, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster said shocking images of bodies washed up on beaches in the Mediterranean, including one of a drowned Syrian boy lying face down, are revealing “the human face of this suffering.”

The British government has refused to accept migrants fleeing wars and dire poverty in the Middle East and Africa at a time when hundreds of thousands of them are risking their lives to enter Western Europe.

But Cardinal Nichols said images of some of the people who have died trying to reach the European Union are upsetting the British people. He said the British people were not “mean-spirited” and that, on the whole, he believed they were generous.

“The spirit of people in this country will respond,” said Cardinal Nichols, president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

“The letters I get and the voices I am hearing are all saying this is a disgrace that we were letting people die and seeing dead bodies on the beaches when, together, Europe is such a wealthy place that we should be able to fashion a short-term response as well as long-term tackling of these really intricate problems,” he said.

“If we take 10,000, it’s a fraction of the whole problem,” he continued. “What is coming through, screaming through at this moment, is the human tragedy of this moment to which we can be more generous.”

“It’s no longer an abstract problem of people who are on the scrounge, it’s not,” the cardinal added. “It’s people who are desperate for the sake of their families, their elderly, their youngsters, their children — and the more we see that I think the more the opportunity for a political response that’s a bit more generous is growing.”

 

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English cardinal urges priests to keep their family synod views out of the press

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Catholic News Service

MANCHESTER, England — Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster urged priests to end debating the upcoming synod on the family in the press after more than 450 priests published a letter calling on the Catholic Church to retain the prohibition on divorced and remarried Catholics receiving holy Communion.

“Every priest in England and Wales has been asked to reflect on the synod discussion. It is my understanding that this has been taken up in every diocese, and that channels of communication have been established,” Cardinal Nichols, president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, said in a statement March 25.

“The pastoral experience and concern of all priests in these matters are of great importance and are welcomed by the Bishops. Pope Francis has asked for a period of spiritual discernment. This dialogue, between a priest and his bishop, is not best conducted through the press,” the statement said.

Set to appear in the March 27 edition of the London-based Catholic Herald, the priests’ letter explained that it was written partly to counter “confusion” over the moral teaching of the Catholic Church as a result of some synod fathers pushing for a relaxation of the ban on divorced and remarried Catholics receiving Communion.

It was signed by 461 priests and also appeared on the website of the weekly magazine March 24.

“We wish, as Catholic priests, to restate our unwavering fidelity to the traditional doctrines regarding marriage and the true meaning of human sexuality, founded on the word of God and taught by the church’s magisterium for two millennia,” the priests wrote.

“We commit ourselves anew to the task of presenting this teaching in all its fullness, while reaching out with the Lord’s compassion to those struggling to respond to the demands and challenges of the Gospel in an increasingly secular society,” the letter continued.

“Furthermore we affirm the importance of upholding the church’s traditional discipline regarding the reception of the sacraments, and that doctrine and practice remain firmly and inseparably in harmony,” the letter added.

The priests concluded their letter by urging all participants of synod on the family Oct. 4-25 at the Vatican “to make a clear and firm proclamation of the church’s unchanging moral teaching, so that confusion may be removed, and faith confirmed.”

Signees included parish priests, members of religious orders and prominent English theologians Dominican Father Aidan Nichols and Father John Saward.

One signatory, Father John Johnson, who serves as the dean of Wigan in northern England, told Catholic News Service March 25 that it would be a “scandal to the community” to allow people who have deserted their spouses to set up home with another partner to publicly receive Communion.

“It is a very delicate matter … but you can’t teach the indissolubility of marriage if you allow all and sundry to go to Communion,” he said.

The final report of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family last October committed the church to “further theological study” on whether divorced and remarried Catholics could have access to Communion as well as “fruitful recourse to a spiritual communion.”

 

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London cardinal calls U.K’s welfare reforms ‘a disgrace’

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LONDON — Welfare reforms in the United Kingdom are leaving people hungry and destitute, said Cardinal-designate Vincent Nichols of Westminster.

He called the harm caused by government austerity policies to the poor “a disgrace” in an interview with the London-based Daily Telegraph newspaper. The interview appeared Feb. 15, one week before he was to be elevated to cardinal during a ceremony in Rome.

“People do understand that we do need to tighten our belts and be much more responsible and careful in public expenditure,” said Cardinal-designate Nichols.

“But I think what is happening is two things, one is that the basic safety net that was there to guarantee that people would not be left in hunger or in destitution has actually been torn apart,” he said. “It no longer exists and that is a real, real dramatic crisis.

“And the second is that, in this context, the administration of social assistance, I am told, has become more and more punitive,” he continued. “So if applicants don’t get it right, then they have to wait for 10 days, for two weeks with nothing, with nothing.”

He added: “For a country of our affluence that, quite frankly, is a disgrace.”

The government’s welfare reforms are aimed at forcing millions of people who are capable of work, but who are living off unemployment benefits payments, back into the workplace.

The measures have been accompanied, however, by a proliferation of more than 400 food banks to answer a demand for food and other necessities, often from people whose welfare payments have stopped but who have not yet received payment for work.

In response to the comments by Cardinal-designate Nichols, the government’s Department for Work and Pensions issued a statement saying that the welfare system was in dire need of reform because it was “trapping the very people it was designed to help, with around 5 million on out-of-work benefits and millions of children growing up in workless households.”

“Our welfare reforms will transform the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities … making 3 million households better off and lifting hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty,” said the statement.

It added: “It’s wrong to talk of removing a safety net when we’re spending 94 billion pounds a year on working-age benefits and the welfare system supports millions of people who are on low incomes or unemployed so they can meet their basic needs.”

 

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