New migrants brining fresh life to ‘weary western culture’ insists Britain’s most senior Catholic cleric
Immigration is helping to bring Britain back to its Christian roots and reviving religion in a “weary, western” culture, the country’s most senior Roman Catholic cleric has insisted.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols said an influx of new arrivals was not simply boosting flagging congregations but encouraging the British-born population to rediscover its own “wellsprings of faith”.
He argued that the recent waves of immigration, which have seen the population grow at its fastest rate since records began, would ultimately help strengthen social cohesion, rather than weakening it, because of the ability of faith to bring people of different backgrounds together.
He added that the promotion of so-called “British values” – a key strand of the Government’s drive against extremism – was to too shallow in itself to hold society together.
His comments came as the Catholic Church in England and Wales prepares for a major new drive to spread its message.
Every parish in the country is to set up an “evangelisation” team and devise new strategies to spread the Christian message in the 21st century.
Catholics are being urged to learn from the global success of the Alpha course, the short introduction to Christianity devised by Holy Trinity Brompton, an Anglican parish in London, which has been used by at least 15 million people around the world.
The Vicar of Holy Trinity, the Rev Nicky Gumbel, who met Pope Francis last year, will speak alongside Cardinal Nichols at a special conference, entitled “Proclaim 15” in Birmingham this weekend.
Speaking ahead of the conference, Cardinal Nichols said that despite evidence of decline, Christianity in Britain is now facing a “very opportune moment” with society “tentatively recognising” a need for “something more”.
The 2011 census showed that a decline of 10 per cent – or 4.1 million people – in number of people in England and Wales who consider themselves as Christian in a single decade.
But that figure was bolstered by 1.2 million foreign-born Christians, including Polish Catholics and African evangelicals. The number of British-born people describing themselves as Christian slumped by 15 per cent – or 5.3 million – in the decade before the census.
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