More than 70 people, including Bishop Nicholas Hudson, attended the annual meeting of Westminster Justice and Peace to share experiences and news over a soup and cheese supper last night (January 27th) at St John Vianney Parish Centre in Wood Green. It turned out to be a lively occasion, as this year a review of diocesan Justice and Peace was included, to canvas views of activists as to how this prophetic work might continue to flourish. Commissioned by Cardinal Vincent, the exercise in the second part of the meeting was led by Danny Curtin, previously president of Young Christian Workers, who flagged up that he was a firm supporter of the Pastoral Cycle followed by Justice and Peace, often summarised as SEE, JUDGE, ACT. Danny also clarified that he was facilitating the thinking of the diocese, rather than acting as a consultant, holding all the answers.
The participants were asked searching questions, such as, what qualities are needed in a Justice and Peace resource, and what is its function? Danny has already had 40 conversations with individuals on this important subject, and will hold a further review session with other important stakeholders before summarising his findings for the Cardinal. He noted that the review process had been requested by Fr Joe Ryan and Barbara Kentish, in their presentation to the Archbishops’ Council, and that there was no plan to cut Justice and Peace work in the diocese.
Father Joe Ryan, Chair, presented his report, which expressed his strong desire that the cutting edge of Justice and Peace be preserved, no matter what form Justice and Peace might take in the future. He has chaired the Commission for 10 years, and has found it taking him in surprising directions, as, for example, his involvement in the Kurdish freedom movement. He explained that Abdullah Ozcalan, banished leader of the PKK, should be regarded as the new Nelson Mandela, since he advocates, from his prison cell in Istanbul, non-violent means of resolving the Kurdish conflict in the Middle East. This concern has stemmed from responding to the world in his own South Tottenham parish, where there is a large Kurdish population.
Bishop Nicholas, who was very much welcomed at the meeting, had come from the Holocaust Memorial Service, and reflected that speaking out on injustice is a key component of justice and peace. If more had spoken out for Jews in pre-war Europe, perhaps events in Germany might have been different. He praised the creative and diligent approach of Danny Curtin, and affirmed the Bishops’ confidence in the process and its outcome.
Barbara Kentish gave a very brief round-up of Commission events, and highlighted the two exciting new publications: The Paris Diaries – an account of the Laudato Si cycle ride, and the Lent Fast, Vegetarian Feast Cookbook. Both are available from Justice@rcdow.org.uk for £3 each or £5 for the two books, including p&p.