THE bishops' Low Week meeting was crushed into two hectic days at Westminster last week. Christopher Howse discovers some of the topics they had time to discuss.
THE 43 bishops of England and Wales who met last week for their annual Low Week policy meeting found no time to discuss the Pope's visit, other than to plan how each was to arrange his movements during the days at the end of May.
The bishops had only from Monday afternoon to Wednesday afternoon to cover more than a dozen issues ranging from response to the Anglican / --Roman Catholic International Commission to plans for the canonisation of Cardinal Newman.
Bishop Lindsay of Hexham and Newcastle, the bishops' representative to the Catholic Information Services, said on Friday that there had been no discussion of what would happen if the Pope's visit were cancelled. But he said that while under the Vatican system there could always be change in the Pope's itinerary, he hoped that there would be no more changes.
THE POPE'S VISIT; Collection in parishes had raised about £650,000. No firm estimates
of the total costs had been made, though estimates in the press put them at between £5 million and £6 million, some of which could be recouped from commercial franchising. Bishop Lindsay had told his diocese that they would have to find £500,000 to pay for events in the region.
THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS: A briefing document from Rome will not be circulated to the dioceses for comment, the bishops have decided.
In the past, Rome's ideas on Synod topics have been passed on for comment, but this year dioceses will merely be asked to send
in observations on the theme "Reconciliation and penance in the mission of the Church". Fr Vincent Nichols of the Upholland Northern Institute will collate the information gathered to be forwarded to Rome by the bishops in September.
Fuller consultation would be made difficult by attention to the Pope's visit.
.Cardinal Hume told the bishops that the theme is not to he limited to the Sacrament of Penance, but is a profound study of conversion, change of heart and the meaning of sin.
NATIONAL CATHOLIC FUND: After giving more than £238,000 to the commissions of the bishops' conference, the fund is likely to be in the red next year to the tune of £15,000.
The fund also gave grants to other Catholic organisations of more than £92,000. Collections to he made this year to cover next year's expenditure are looking for 065,000, as against £310,000 in last year's collections.
Archbishop Derek Worlock, in reporting to the bishops, said that one reason for next years shortfall was the decrease in royalties from liturgical publications.
CAFOD: The Catholic Fund for Overseas Development, increased its income with more than £2 million coming in in 1981, almost all of which went to overseas aid projects. Of this £733,455 came from Family Fast Days.
The bishops wrote to Mr Robin Hood on his retirement as Cafod administrator to thank him for his service of the Church and the community.
SERVICE CHAPLAINS: British forces chaplains are facing an increasingly difficult task, Bishop Francis Walmsley reported to the bishops.
Bishop Walmsley controls 57 service chaplains — nine short of the planned compliment of 66 responsible for looking after 134,000 people, including the
wives and children of servicemen, -scattered—thfoughout—the—werK The number of chaplains is likely to fall by another six next year.
NEW SAINTS: Cardinal Newman is one of three candidates for cannonisation whose causes the bishops examined. They are urging the Holy See to expedite the process leading to his beatification. Bishop Lindsay suggested that 1990, the centenary of his death, would be a suitable time to see the aim nearing completion.
The bishops also decided to encourage the causes of Bishop Richard Challoner, who died in 1781 and Mother Mary Ward, founder of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who died in 1645.
CIS: The Catholic Information Services received the bishops' support in their search for permanent offices in London.
RACE: The Commission for Racial Justice was thanked for its work over the Nationality Bill, and Bishop Lindsay stressed that Bishop Leo VIcCartie its President retained the bishops' confidence despite public crtiticism of the commission's report on Rastafarians.
POLAND: Poland should be the object of prayers throughout the country on Pentecost Sunday, May 30. the bishops confirmed, in response to a request from the Commission of the European Community Bishops Conference.
The Pope should be in Britain on that day and take part in the prayers for his homeland.
Bishop urphy O'Connor of Arundel and Brighton, chairman of the Bishops' Committee for Europe, reported to the bishops' meeting that "the crisis in Poland has particular importance for Catholics in Great Britain. The Polish community in exile here is strong: the Polish nation has planed a major role in European history and is still at the heart of the European continent."
DISARMAMENT: Peace pray ers should he offered on the occasion of the United Nations' Special Session on Disarmament from June 7 to July 9. The bishops did not debate the topic fully but said: "We pray that the special session will receive the support of all governments and \hill make a real contribution to world peace. We commend the leaflet prepared the Commission for International Justice and Peace for use in our homes and parishes.