A national initiative is being launched to invite Catholics to reach out to the hundreds of thousands of people in England and Wales who have been baptised but very rarely, if ever, attend Mass. The initiative, called: "Where are they now?" is designed to raise awareness among the Catholic community of the integral role each person can play in inviting their friends and family back to Church. The campaign will begin on Home Mission Sunday, 16 September. It is being resourced by the Catholic Agency to Support Evangelisation (CASE), an agency of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales. Resource packs have been sent to every Catholic parish and religious house. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, addressing Catholic parishes, said: "My dear friends, I urge you to take part in this initiative. All of us know someone who no longer attends Mass. This is a great sorrow for so many of us. In a non-judgemental way, as the Body of Christ, let's go out to the lost sheep with a message of love, acceptance, welcome and reconciliation." Mgr Keith Barltrop, Director of CASE, said: "Most Catholic families have members who, for different reasons, no longer go to Mass: some lost contact during their teenage years, others drifted away after a broken marriage, whilst some have had painful experiences with the Catholic community. Our initiative aims to encourage Catholics to listen respectfully and lovingly to people's stories and invite them back. A simple invitation could make all the difference in the world." He added: "The Catholic Church has never been an exclusive body, catering only for a spiritual elite, but a net in which all sorts of fish are caught, to use the Gospel image. The good and bad, the fervent and the lukewarm, saints and sinners are all part of what makes up its rich tapestry, so there will always be 'lapsed Catholics' to reach out to and that is what we're inviting parishes to do." "The reality of a large number of non Church-going Catholics is not a new part of Catholic culture. There have always been a significant number of Catholics who rarely attend Church. As with other denominations, people get baptised, but only a proportion will regularly participate in their local parish community. Our initiative is therefore trying to address and positively respond to a long-standing part of Catholic culture." Dean, now in his forties, lapsed when he was a teenager and came back after recently reading the novel the Da Vinci Code. He said: "I was away from the Church for 26 years and during that time only came back for 'hatches, matches and dispatches'. Ironically a work of fiction called the Da Vinci Code reignited an interest in my faith and religious history. Shortly after finishing the book I went to Confession and haven't looked back. I now realise God loves me and the fact that I've been away from Church doesn't matter. If anyone else is thinking of coming back, please don't hesitate. There are loads of people ready and waiting to help you." Home Mission Sunday is a special day when Catholics are invited to pray for and support the work of evangelisation in England and Wales. Parishes are invited to take a collection to help fund CASE's work. Materials provided include: bidding prayers, homily notes, a "welcome home" booklet, poster and sample outreach leaflet. More resources are available online: www.caseresources.org.uk
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