Catholics in England and Wales have to break out of their ghettos or the Church will continue to decline, said the director of the Bishops' evangelisation agency at a unique gathering last week. Speaking at the first CASE/BBH Forum at London Colney in Hertfordshire, Fr Keith Barltrop, Director of the Catholic Agency to Support Evangelisation (CASE) said: "Many people still think of evangelisation as something within Catholics walls. We have got to go beyond these walls and get out of our ghettos. If we don't the Church may go into a terminal decline." Fr Barltrop's comments came during an address at a Forum CASE was co-hosting with Building Bridges of Hope, an ecumenical initiative of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland. The aim of the Forum, which brought together nearly 50 mission experts and practitioners from across the British Isles, was to explore ways in which the Catholic community can evangelise. The event, which took place on the 23rd-24th November, took the theme of "Stories of Changing Evangelisation" and included Mass, discussion groups and presentations about current mission projects and issues. Fr Keith added: "The Bishops of England and Wales are deeply concerned about evangelisation, but through all tiers of the Church there isn't a common vision. Events like this help to form and create a common vision and culture of mission in England and Wales, but we have to change our mentality and reach out beyond our parish boundaries. We can't leave that kind of work to other denominations." Forum delegates represented around thirty different groups including parish and diocesan representatives as well as members of new movements and communities. The discussion areas were varied and included faith and culture, evangelising the church, and how to meet and serve those on the fringes, amongst other topics. Kathy Bensen from the National Shrine to St Padre Pio in Pantasaph said: "It was so inspiring to meet and share a common goal with people touched by the Holy Spirit." Meanwhile, Fr Val Farrell from Holy Family Church in Blackpool said: "At this Forum I've discovered a 'case' full of treasures - like opening a treasure chest." Among the outcomes of the Forum is the planned publication of a Directory of Evangelisation Initiatives in 2005. This will be a national resource aimed at helping the Catholics identify and access mission resources. Source: CASE
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