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Bishop John Arnold: CAFOD embodies our Common Home


Bishop John with campaigners. Image: CAFOD

Bishop John with campaigners. Image: CAFOD

Source: CAFOD

Bishop John Arnold, Bishop of Salford writes:

I have had the honour of being the Chair of CAFOD for 13 years. I will be standing aside from Easter, as Bishop Stephen Wright will take over as Chair of this remarkable charity.

As I approach the end of my time at CAFOD, I have been reflecting on what has most impressed me during my time as a trustee. The words and memories that keep coming to mind is the sense of compassion and our collective care for our common home.

I have been privileged to travel all over the world with CAFOD, seeing first-hand their remarkable work, and meeting such impressive people who work every day to change their lives and the life of their communities.

A memory that sticks strongly in my mind is from 2013, when I visited the Philippines in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. The devastation I saw was utterly shocking. Hardly any building remained standing without significant damage, whole communities had been lost.

At first, I felt that the damage was too severe for rebuilding. But then I spoke to the local people, the ones who had seemingly lost everything. They greeted me with positivity. They had a plan. They had hope and a steely determination to rebuild.

I thought, "how do you do that in the face of losing everything". It suddenly became so obvious; their sense of solidarity was shining through. It was extraordinary, the people had a real sense of agency, of ownership of their lives, despite the apparent desperation of their situation.

The reason for their determination was because they were all in it together; the children, parents, grandparents all doing their bit to rebuild their lives. They were all working as one to rebuild and doing so with smiles on their faces and hope in their hearts.

Many people have become cynical about faith and how we relate to each other, creating a feeling that we are all increasingly alone. But seeing how the people responded to this crisis encapsulated everything about faith, and the qualities of CAFOD. People do still love their neighbour and are wonderfully generous to each other, even in the face of utter devastation.

This is what makes CAFOD so special to me. Solidarity never seems like an abstract concept or value, but something CAFOD, with their generous supporters and the communities with whom they work, are proud to live and embrace day in and day out.

It is an embodiment of Pope Francis' vision of human solidarity. The Holy Father tells us that: "Solidarity means much more than engaging in sporadic acts of generosity. It means thinking and acting in terms of community."

I see this sense of human solidarity, this sense of community with our sisters and brothers, every time CAFOD launches an appeal or raises the plight of injustice around the world.

Even when things are as tough as they are here at home, ordinary Catholics up and down the country do whatever they can to help. Their generosity is expressed each and every time there is need, and even when the disasters they are tackling are not on our television screens or in our newspapers.

Their generosity is expressed in various ways. They donate money, give time in speaking at Mass, attend campaigning rallies or just by including those in need in their prayers. People will show the most extraordinary generosity to their sisters and brothers in need.

This seems to me to be a clear expression of our Catholic values of solidarity and our care for our common home. And it has being the privilege to have seen these values enacted that has made me so proud to be a part of CAFOD.

So, even though I will no longer be formally a part of CAFOD's administration, I will remain a lifelong friend and supporter and will keep our sisters and brothers in need, CAFOD's supporters, and all those who work with CAFOD, in my prayers.

Bishop John Arnold has been a CAFOD trustee for 14 years and Chair of its Board for 13 years. From Easter 2023, Bishop Stephen Wright will replace him as CAFOD's Chair.



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