Second stage of Westminster diocesan consultation begins

 Archbishops House issued the following press release yesterday. The Diocese of Westminster has launched, under the title "Graced by the Spirit" a diocesan wide consultation concerning its future pastoral plan. This forms a second stage in the Cardinal's planning for the future of the Diocese of Westminster. The Cardinal wished the first stage to be open to everyone in the diocese and have, as its priority, the spiritual and pastoral renewal of the faithful. As a result of a consultation in the Diocese conducted during 2002, "At Your Word, Lord" has already been initiated. That programme is now entering the second of five seasons and will conclude in Autumn 2005. This second phase concerns the best provision for the pastoral and sacramental life of the Diocese and for evangelisation. In a letter to priests working in parishes, in December 2003, the Cardinal said: "At Your Word, Lord is the beginning of a wide-ranging process of spiritual and pastoral renewal which will continue. Another important part of that renewal must include a careful review of the present situation in the Diocese and our resources, so that we may plan for the best pastoral care of the people of the Diocese and our future mission of evangelisation." The Cardinal has again called for the widest possible consultation of priests, religious and laity. In letters inviting parishes to hold "Open Meetings", it was said: "The Cardinal is concerned that our future planning must be open to all ideas and opinions. The suggested questions may prompt wider discussions, which are to be welcomed. In these months of consultation it is hoped that a broad range of voices will be heard so that the best possible decisions may be made. Please do whatever you can to encourage participation." A small steering group has proposed a series of steps for the consultation, which should be completed late in 2005. Following the consultations, there will be a Green Paper (late Summer 2004) setting out a scheme which will be open for revision and comment before any decisions are finally made. In explaining its purpose, the Steering Group said: "The group considered how other Dioceses had approached their future planning. Most Dioceses have already faced serious questions of manpower and resources. Their approach has varied a great deal, both in the priorities that they wished to consider and the means they employed for their planning. We took a view, early on, that consultation is vital. Consultation gives sound knowledge of the local church, drawn from the people who live there and it also values people and their opinions, giving them the opportunity to shape their own future to a greater extent." Two factors in particular are expected to impact significantly on plans for the future: the shift of the Catholic population and the decreasing number of priests available for pastoral appointments. The nature and timing of any developments which may be necessary in a given parish or community must include very careful consideration of the history of that parish or community as well as the gifts and aspirations of its members. This is the purpose of the consultation process. Mission Statement With recognition and thanksgiving for the history and achievements of the people and clergy of the Diocese of Westminster and conscious of the changing times and challenges that face us, the Cardinal calls us, as Diocese, to join in discerning the future in which we may most effectively continue Christ's call to evangelise our world.

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