At their autumn plenary meeting, the Bishops of England and Wales welcomed the government's Community Sponsorship Scheme responding to the desperate situation of refugees.
The scheme supports and authorises local communities to welcome refugees coming to this country. Recently the first family to be received into a Catholic community arrived in Salford, an arrangement that was organised by Caritas Salford. The bishops have formed a working party to help parishes understand and take part in this community sponsorship scheme. In doing so, parishes can take up Pope Francis’s appeal for parishes to play an active part in welcoming refugees.
At a press conference following the plenary, Cardinal Vincent explained that the Bishops' concern was ‘the way in which an instinctive compassion and welcome is corroded by fear and history’. Reflecting on the document Meeting God in Friend and Stranger, a document issed by the Bishops in 2010, he added that the Church can and should offer a way of maintaining a compassionate response to people who are genuinely in difficult situations.
With respect to both the refugee crisis and following the EU referendum, the Cardinal expressed concern about levels of tolerance and ‘hardening attitudes of exclusion and the fostering of a climate of fear that makes finding solutions more difficult’. Following the vote to leave the EU, the priority for the Church will be to continue to provide practical help for the poor and most vulnerable in society.
During the press conference, the Cardinal also outlined other resolutions discussed at the meeting, including prison reform and support for persecuted Christians.