Following unnamed, and rogue - but seemingly "credible" - negative briefing in London we have this morning been asked for our view of how the London Catholic Bishops "have taken" our forthcoming report on the needs of London's Catholic migrants. The report - comprising a survey of over a thousand Catholic migrants, one Bishop and 20 clergy across people from 77 national origins - uncovers the most striking social need in the nation's capital. For the record: 1. We have been delighted with feedback from the Bishops as they have read our report since they received it on January 8th. Bishop Thomas McMahon wrote to tell us he thought the report "excellent"; Cardinal Murphy O'Connor to thank us "warmly" for our work and Archbishop McDonald that he found it "very interesting and looked forward to studying it more". In addition senior clergy from the three Dioceses have described the report as "ground breaking" and suggested that the needs that we have uncovered leave the Church in London "at an historic moment". Bishop Alan Hopes made a point of meeting with us and giving positive feedback. 2. We are not some rogue body. Although independent and based at St Edmund's College , Cambridge the Von Hugel Institute is associated with the Church. In the last three months we have shared platforms with two Archbishops and three Bishops. We collaborate with Religious Orders and agencies. Many of our research Associates hold senior positions in Cambridge University and Church charities. In fact the Von Hugel Institute Centre For Faith In Society is the senior Catholic inspired scholarly social research centre and think tank in the UK (www.vhi.org.uk) and we also enjoy excellent working relationships throughout government, the voluntary sector and academia. We are also proud to work across the faith communities and only last weekend co-hosted a world class inter-faith conference on education with scholars from Princeton, Oxford, Berkeley, Haifa, Glasgow and Aha Khan Universities, among others, giving papers. 3. The Bishops should be affirmed for commissioning and funding research into the needs of London's migrants. This commitment is right at the heart of the Papal letter Ergra Migrantes (section 71) which specifically calls on Bishops to undertake such studies, and establish Catholic centres to specialise in migration studies. In response to the needs we have uncovered we have now launched a new Migration and Itinerant Peoples Unit with an advisory board drawn from several of the Bishops Conference agencies in addition to agencies across mainland Europe, and academic departments in Africa and the Middle East. This builds on the lecture tour we hosted in 06 by Professor Mary Jo Bane, the Academic Dean at the Kennedy School of Government, who spoke a good deal of US experience in this field. 4. As already agreed with the Bishops we will now continue our research in health and in education in the Dioceses and look forward to providing more insights that can help the Church enhance its ministry even further to - and with - some of the capital's most vulnerable citizens. 5. In the meantime the Bishops in London will be reflecting further on our findings, and consulting widely, before launching their own strategic response in the Spring. 6. It takes confidence and courage to commission research to help any organisation to reflect on its own work and then plan improvements. We affirm the example of very best practice that the Bishops in London have shown by commissioning and funding our research so that they can plan the best way forward for their parishes in the face of social needs in large part driven by globalisation.
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