Even after record spending on welfare, contemporary Britain still has 'extreme and shameful poverty', the Cardinal told a Cambridge conference yesterday. Speaking at Corpus Christi College at the annual conference of the Catholic bishops' social action lobby Caritas, the Cardinal said that the safety net of the welfare state was 'full of holes' which 'increasing numbers of people' fall through. "It is a kind of poverty which is not purely material, but which involves great anguish and suffering. It is multidimensional, where the welfare state is too often one-dimensional," the Cardinal said. The Cardinal's critique was given as part of a reflection on Pope Benedict XVI's first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est. The title of the talk: 'The practice of love by the Church as a community of love' is taken from the title of Part II of the encyclical, which is concerned with the role of church charities in contemporary society. The Cardinal also complained that: "Faith-based organisations competing for public funds often feel marginalised, because of the difficulty of using taxation for what are perceived to be religious organisations." The obstacles remain, he said, "despite the commitment by Government and the other parties to eliminating this barrier". The Cardinal also called on Catholics in England and Wales to commit to social action on behalf of the poor, action which he said: "must start with the Church, as God's family on earth, looking to its own congregations and understanding their needs." He said the congregations of Britain's major cities are increasingly made up of migrant workers, people whose "precarious living standards impose terrible burdens on their families." "People whom every Sunday we stand alongside in the pews need us to stand alongside them in their need of justice and charity. We can only do this when we understand their needs, when we enter into their lives," he said in the speech. Together with the bishops of Southwark and Brentwood, the Cardinal has commissioned research into the position of migrant workers in London parishes, and is inviting workers to a Mass concelebrated by the three bishops at Westminster Cathedral on 1 May. The Cardinal said: "I hope that this Mass on the Feast of St Joseph the Worker will send a message to our parishes: that these are the new members of God's family in England and Wales, and they must be tended to if we are to bring God's liberating love into our contemporary cities." To read the full text of the Cardial's speech, see: www.rcdow.org.uk
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