A team created to put the Church's case during Pope Benedict XVI's UK visit will mark the anniversary of his trip by launching a new project designed to equip the Church for a larger role in public life. Phase II of Catholic Voices will include a new speakers' programme, a Catholic Voices 'Academy' and two books to share the project's fruits.
Over six months last year Catholic Voices trained 20 speakers who appeared in more than 100 radio and TV programmes in the run-up to and during the papal visit. The success of the project, which was widely commented on, has led to many enquiries from abroad from groups interested in copying the idea.
Candidates are now being sought for a new speakers' training programme in Leeds over three weekends in October, November and December. The coordinators are looking for Catholics aged 25-45 willing to be trained in media skills to put the Church's case on a series of 'neuralgic issues', in order later to be available for media interviews.
Details of new course and how to apply at www.catholicvoices.org.uk/autumncourse2011
The autumn will also see the launch of the Catholic Voices Academy, in response to the invitation by the bishops of England and Wales for a "deeper social engagement". The Academy, inspired by Pope Benedict's call in Glasgow for "clear voices" to "put the case for the promotion of faith's wisdom and vision in the public forum", will hold regular invitation-only briefings on issues in the news, as well as public debates and lectures.
The Academy will be launched in central London on 23 September at an event to include an address by Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster and the publication by Darton, Longman & Todd of Catholic Voices: putting the Church's case in an era of 24-hour news, by two of the project's coordinators, Austen Ivereigh and Kathleen Griffin. The book, which distils the tips and techniques learned during the papal visit, contains briefings on nine of the most controversial topics behind many of the news stories about the Church, and is aimed at ordinary Catholics wanting to learn how to present a better case.
A second book will also be launched on 23 September. Catholic Voices: a service to the media and to the Church by Jack Valero and Austen Ivereigh, published by the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, has been written in response to requests from dioceses and organisations in other countries wanting to create their own Catholic Voices. A group in Spain www.catholicvoices.org.es has begun training to be ready for the papal visit to Madrid in August. The coordinators have also fielded enquiries from Germany, Ireland, Poland, Chile, as well as the Archdiocese of New York.
Dr Ivereigh said: "Although we will continue to train speakers for media interviews, we want to widen Catholic Voices now through the creation of an 'Academy' that will help form a generation of Catholics wanting to respond to the Pope's and our bishops' call for clearer voices in the national conversation. We want to help the Church find its public lay voice, and over time develop a new Christian humanism, offering the truth and beauty of church teaching to contemporary British society. Both Pope Benedict XVI and our bishops have called for a deeper engagement with the public square; we hope Catholic Voices can contribute to that."
Catholic Voices is an independent charitable company run by its three coordinators, and overseen by a Board of Trustees who include Fr Christopher Jamison OSB, national director for vocations, and three of the Catholic Voices speakers' team. The project's chaplain is Fr Stephen Wang, dean of studies at Allen Hall. Lord Brennan is its patron.
More information at: www.catholicvoices.org.uk
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