Immigration has transformed the Catholic Church in the UK and, says Sophia L Deboick, Brexit will change it once again
Catholic leaders know the value of migrants. When Cardinal Vincent Nichols, head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, was interviewed by the BBC last month, he emphasised the moral imperative of caring for those fleeing war and poverty and condemned the ‘expressions of hatred’ that have created a ‘culture of fear among people who have been welcomed here’ from the EU, but he quickly got to the crux of the matter: ‘I think this country will benefit actually from the vibrancy of the Christian faith that many people bring here.’
Under Pope Francis the Catholic Church’s often latent social conscience has been stirred, with Francis himself praising the contribution of Latino migrants to the US to ‘the life of the nation’ in general and to the Church in particular, urging Catholic bishops there to actively ‘break down walls and build bridges’ between different cultures and ‘create a culture of encounter, which encourages individuals and groups to share the richness of their traditions and experiences.’ This obvious riposte to Trump’s literally divisive rhetoric (‘Build that wall!’), issued the week after the presidential election, was admirable stuff, but since Latinos account for about 40% of American Catholics, and are a growing constituency, this was also a canny move. It seems to be a case of ask not what the Catholic Church can do for migrants, but what migrants can do for the Catholic Church, and as Nichols hinted, the Church in the UK certainly needs them…
The New European, 13 January 2017, p. 22.