2014-02-18 12:44:21

England's new cardinal shares concerns for Britain's poor

(Vatican Radio) England’s cardinal-elect Vincent Nichols says his nomination as one of Pope Francis’ closest advisers will help to raise the profile of all faith communities in Britain today. Archbishop Nichols, who heads the diocese of Westminster and serves as president of the bishops conference of England and Wales, told us the focus of his new position as a member of the College of Cardinals is summed up in the Pope’s invitation to “broaden our horizons and enlarge the love in our hearts”.

In an interview with Philippa Hitchen ahead of his arrival in Rome for the Extraordinary Consistory on Thursday and Friday, Archbishop Nichols also talked about his recent reactions to the government’s austerity programme which made headlines in the British press over the past weekend. He said he was not making an “over-arching criticism of policies” to reform the country’s welfare system, but rather echoing the many voices of poverty and destitution that he is hearing on the ground.

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The Cardinal-elect says that reactions to his nomination have been "quite astonishing", adding that "Catholics you'd expect to be very pleased but it's a reaction right across society". He says the Chief Rabbi in England told him the nomination "strengthens us all, so I think this does help to raise the profile of faith, of the project of religious living in the public sphere..."

Speaking about his reactions to the government's austerity programme Archbishop Nichols says "I was trying to give an honest and clear picture of what I learn and hear from fellow bishops and people working in food banks......we've been trying to make this a priority within the diocese and the word we used in a statement at the end of the last bishops conference meeting is destitution...people who have absolutely nothing....

When a priest tells me a young mother come in (to a food bank) and she's given three days' worth of food and she bursts into tears because she hasn't eaten anything for three days....I believe in a country as resourceful and affluent as ours, we should be looking at adjustements so that this doesn't happen..."

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