Bishops debate doctrinal role
by Martin Newland THE nature and purpose of the national Bishops' Conference are to be discussed by the prelates of England and Wales when they meet on November 21.
The bishops have until December 31 to respond to a draft document from the Holy See which seeks to "evoke reactions" from national bishops' conferences on how they see their role in the Church.
Outlining the agenda for the bishops' November meeting Mgr Vincent Nichols, General Secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, referred to the "premature" nature of the whole project. "The debate still belongs in the world of the theologians, we are not yet ready for definitive statements," he said.
The Vatican document was drafted in response to a 1985 call from the American Church that the status of Bishops' Conference be reflected upon in the light of the US bishops' recent pastorals on the economy and nuclear war.
"The Vatican document is geared towards Bishops'
SEVERAL of the bishops will be attending Rememberance Day services on Sunday. Bishop Thomas McMahon of Brentwood will be present at the War Memorial to celebrate Mass at Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Stock at 11 am. Archbishop Worlock of Liverpool will be at the Cenotaph, Liverpool at 11 am, Bishop Caspian Hollis, auxiliary in Birmingl am will attend the Remembrance Service at Oxford Cenotaph at 10.45 am, and Bishop Mervyn Alexander of Clifton will do likewise at the Bristol Cenotaph at 10.55 am.
Cardinal Basil Hume, Archbishop of Westminster, and many of the bishops will concelebrate a mass to mark the canonisation of Philipinne Duchesne, at Digby Stuart College, Roehampton, on Saturday at 2.30 pm. Bishop Daniel Mullins of Menevia will be travelling from South Wales for the occasion. Bishop Cormac Murphy O'Connor of Arundel & Brighton, who will have just returned from Rome where he attended a meeting of the Secretariat for Christian Unity. Archbishop Michael Bowen of Southwark and Bishop Victor Guazzelli, bishop in East London, will also be present.
Conferences making doctrinal decisions, but the US Bishops' Conference has not made doctrinal statements, only pastoral ones. It's unclear what we are really talking about," said Mgr Nichols.
The bishops will also hear a status report on Catholic social teaching in the context of current social and economic policies in Britain. Auxiliary Bishop John Jukes of Southwark, Chairman of the Committee for the World of Work, and Auxiliary Bishop Howard Tripp, also of Southwark, and Chairman of the Committee for Public Life, were given the task of looking at social affairs in the light of a perceived "culture of indifference to the underpriviledged" outlined by the Bishops' Conference at their meeting last April.
In addition to debate on social concerns the bishops will be talking about their own response to proposed structures designed to make the "Not Strangers But Pilgrims" ecumenical initiative a reality. The "ecumenical instruments" as they are known, will bind the churches together in a mutual sharing of resources, prayer and worship.
On Thursday the cardinal will say the 90th anniversary celebration mass for Catholic Social Services for prisoners at Westminster Cathedral at 5.30 pm, and on Friday he will go to Lewisham Theatre at 7.30 pm to see the Cafod Clergy Review Charity concert.
On Saturday Bishop James O'Brien, auxiliary in Hertfordshire, will visit the Mount Young Offenders' Institute at 9 am.
Bishop David Konstant of Leeds will ordain Revd N Farrell, at SS Peter and Paul's Sandal at noon on Saturday. Bishop Joseph Gray of Shrewsbury will be spending two days visiting St Laurence's, Birkenhead. On Sunday he will visit the parish and on Monday the school. Bishop John Brewer of Lancaster will be celebrating Mass for Jubilarians at Lancaster Cathedral at 11.30 am on Tuesday.
Next Thursday and Friday Bishop Alan Clark of East Anglia will be in Rome attending meetings.