As new UK PM takes office, Catholic bishops offer prayers and help – Catholic World Report
Denver Newsroom, Sept. 6, 2022 / 5:00 p.m. (CNA).
In a message of congratulations to new British Prime Minister Liz Truss, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster pledged his prayers and the support of the Church in dealing with various crises, including that of the cost of living.
“I want to assure the Prime Minister of my prayerful support,” said Nichols, speaking as the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. “His appointment comes at a time when many crises must be faced, at home and around the world.”
Truss, 47, succeeds Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson. She was officially nominated by Queen Elizabeth II on September 6, after winning the Conservative Party leadership vote. Truss won with around 81,000 votes, 57% of the party’s voters, over rival Rishi Sunak.
She promised tax cuts of up to $34.5 billion for emergency budget legislation, on the grounds that it will stimulate the economy and prevent a recession. These cuts include a temporary halt to environmental taxes on energy bills and the removal of a corporate tax hike.
Annual household energy bills hit a record high of 54% in April. Last month, Britain’s energy regulator said another 80% increase was coming. That means annual bills will go from $2,332 to $4,089. Costs could rise again in January to more than $4,600, reports The Associated Press.
The massive increase is due to Russia’s war in Ukraine, which caused natural gas prices to spike across Europe. This in turn increases the costs of natural gas heating and electricity.
Nichols’ message cited the cost of living as a significant crisis. He said Catholics are present in every local community and are therefore “well aware of the dramatic impact of this crisis.”
Many people now have to choose between paying for heating or paying for food and winter is approaching, he noted.
“The wealth that our society has grown accustomed to seems to be seeping through,” he said.
Nichols said he and his fellow bishops recognize the complexity of the causes of the energy crisis.
“There are many Catholics in public life and in the charitable sector who are committed to trying to find long-term solutions to these political and economic challenges,” he said.
The cardinal briefly suggested Catholic social teaching as a guide for the various crises.
“The principle of serving the common good means that the needs of the poorest in society must receive urgent attention,” he said. “The time for prioritizing factional interests is over. Today, we should focus on the elderly, families with child care and all those who are least able to absorb the huge increases in the cost of living that we face.
Specifically, Nichols called for immediate attention to the level of social benefits and the two-child cap on Universal Credit payments.
“Businesses too, especially small businesses, are facing acute challenges and will need help to survive,” he added. “Their support for employment and family income is crucial.”
The centralized system of social protection and public services could benefit from the active participation of individuals and civil society, the cardinal said, citing the Catholic social principle of subsidiarity.
Cardinal Nichols urged all Catholics to “donate all the time and financial resources they can to charitable efforts that support those affected by the current crisis.” He praised the long tradition of Catholic schools in supporting children whose families are in difficulty.
“The work of our local parishes and Catholic charities is based on the firm belief in the inherent dignity of every person,” he said. “No one should be set aside or ‘reduced’. I am convinced that throughout this crisis, the Catholic community will do everything in its power to act on this conviction and promote this principle.
“I hope that our parish communities will always be open to those who are suffering from difficulties and who are particularly in need of companionship and spiritual support at this time,” the Cardinal continued. “They can help us understand the humility we need to have before God.”
“The spiritual needs of the poor and their special gifts must never be forgotten,” he added.
Nichols asked for prayers for all who are suffering from the cost of living crisis. He invokes Saint Thomas More, patron saint of politicians and public life, and Saint Bernadette, patroness of the poor.
“I pray that all members of our society will work together to find ways, both short and long term, to alleviate this crisis that threatens the well-being of so many people,” he said.
During his term, Truss also had to deal with the Ukrainian crisis after the invasion of Russia. Relations between Northern Ireland and the European Union are also expected to pose challenges, as the UK’s exit from the European Union continues to pose economic and political challenges.
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