05 December 2006

Pastoral Letters: what are Bishops for?

That useful web page: http://www.catholic-ew.org.uk/dioc/dioceses.htm: gives us a link to all of the diocesan websites in England and Wales. Shrewsbury's is under reconstruction, and Wrexham's needs some sort of special permission which I don't have. But the other 20 are all there (though the Bishop of the Armed Forces is not listed).

I thought it might be useful to compare and contrast the Advent pastoral letters from our Bishops. But I was surprised to find that only 8 of the 20 sites listed one. It might have been a case of late posting, I thought, but two or three offered a letter on the feast of Christ the King, and the remainder made clear that pastoral letters are not something that the Bishops think of as a priority nowadays.

Now, my memory leads me to think that when I was young Bishop Holland of Salford used to send us 4 or 5 letters a year. It's clear, from looking at each Bishop's index of pastoral letters, that this doesn't happen any more. I wonder why not.

"Bishops, with priests as co-workers, have as their first task 'to preach the Gospel of God to all men,' in keeping with the Lord's Command." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 888)

The Bishop of Clifton is, by the way, the only one to offer us a podcast of him reading his own letter: "Let Us Pod" is the greeting on the diocesan home page. He quotes seven different people on his website who say how well done it was.

The content is, well, variable. But well done Cardiff, Clifton, E Anglia, Leeds, Middlesborough, Nottingham, Salford and Southwark for taking the trouble to mark the start of the Church's year by assuming that we might want some guidance from the Head of our local Church.

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