London's Catholic Dioceses celebrate migrant workers

 A 'Mass for Workers' - concelebrated by the leaders of the three Catholic Dioceses whose territories include London, and attended by migrant workers from across the capital, is to be held on the feast day of St Joseph the Worker, Monday, 1st May 2006 (9.45am) at Westminster Cathedral, Victoria Street, London. The 'Mass for Workers' is a joint initiative between the Roman Catholic Dioceses of Brentwood, Southwark and Westminster and London Citizens, a broad based community alliance. The three Dioceses have also commissioned a research project into the pastoral, social and economic needs of new migrants in London. Titled 'The Ground of Justice', the research will be carried out by Cambridge University's Von Hugel Institute, based at St Edmund's College. In a joint statement, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Archbishop of Westminster; Kevin McDonald, Archbishop of Southwark; and Thomas McMahon, Bishop of Brentwood said: "Increasingly the congregations of our major cities are made up of migrant workers, people whose precarious living standards often 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 for justice and charity." "That is why on 1st May we are inviting London's migrant workers to a 'Mass for Workers' at Westminster Cathedral. We hope that this Mass will send a message to our parishes: that migrant workers must be tended to if we are to bring God's liberating love into our contemporary cities." "To help better understand the needs of London's migrant workers, many of whom are Catholics, we have commissioned from the Von Hugel Institute a study into the conditions of migrant workers in our London parishes. We are confident that this inquiry will reveal the priorities for concrete pastoral care, both in practical assistance to them and their families, and to encourage advocacy on their behalf in the public sphere. " Recent years have seen increasing numbers of migrant workers coming to London in search of work. Many of these are from predominately Catholic countries, including Poland, Brazil and the Philippines. Whilst some have found well paid and secure employment, others have fallen victim to exploitative employers who pay below the minimum wage and ignore basic health and safety rules. Migrant workers are forming an increasing proportion of Catholics in London, which currently has over 30 ethnic chaplaincies pastoring to their needs. Both the 'Mass for Workers' and 'The Ground of Justice' research project draw their inspiration from the social Catholic tradition, which since Pope Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum (1891) has placed the Church alongside workers in defence of living wages. The Church has taught that the determination of just wages and conditions cannot be left to the free market alone. The Mass will include a range of readings and music reflecting the different traditions. It will be preceeded by a procession of representatives from London's diverse communities, occupations and civic organisations. The Mass, which will start at 9.45am, will be followed immediately by a meeting, organised by London Citizens, at which leaders from across London's Catholic, faith and civic communities will support a living wage and respectful conditions for all London's migrant communities. London Citizens will be launching a new Workers Association at this meeting which is intended to offer legal advice, training and a degree of protection for migrants not in a trade union. The research project 'The Ground of Justice' will be led by Francis Davis, Director of the Centre for Faith and Society of the Von Hugel Institute, St Edmund's College, Cambridge. Initial findings will be available in May 2006 and the full report, available in September 2006, is expected to explore ideas for the pastoral care of migrant workers. Primary research for the project will include face to face interviews with ethnic chaplains, questionnaires of congregations and focus groups with migrants. 'The Ground of Justice' title comes from the letters of Thomas Merton, a 20th Century American Trappist monk, who referred to the Eucharist as being 'the ground of hope' in which all nations and peoples - across the ages - come together in a profound personal encounter which also feeds the journey of social transformation and engagement to build the common good. London Citizens is the largest and most diverse community organisation in the UK. It is a developing alliance of 85 faith congregations, trade union branches, schools and student bodies attracting member institutions from over 14 London Boroughs - an organised alliance of approximately 250,000 London Citizens and their families. This membership includes many Roman Catholic congregations. For more information see: The Von Hugel Institute was founded in 1987 as a Roman Catholic research institute of St Edmund's College, University of Cambridge, dedicated to the study of the relationship of Christianity and society. It is committed to working in a wide ecumenical context in regard to the appointment of staff and collaboration with persons and institutions of different Christian denominations, other faiths and all those who share a concern for a more just, inclusive and peaceable society and human flourishing. For further information see: Source: Archbishops House

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