by Jack O'Sullivan AIDS, religious and sex education, and lay ministry topped the agenda at this week's meeting of the Bishops of England and Wales.
Gathering for the first time at All Saints Pastoral Centre, Hertfordshire, the hierarchy also discussed pastoral care for families, ecumenism, alcohol abuse, Sunday racing, South Africa and the Vatican statement on homosexuality.
Cardinal Hume chaired the four-day meeting, scheduled to close yesterday lunchtime. The conference which meets twice a year is not a governing body. Any binding resolutions must be passed by a two thirds majority and be sent to Rome for approval.
Soon after the conference convened on Monday night, Cardinal Hume presented a report compiled for him by a church-sponsored conference held a fortnight ago on Aids. He was also expected to speak on the World Day of Prayer for Peace at Assisi.
The bishops would be considering "the requirements of the new GCSE examination boards" for RE and the debate on responsibilities for sex education, conference general secretary Mgr Vincent Nichols told a pre-meeting briefing.
Bishop Cormac Murphy-O'Connor of Arundel and Brighton reported on
progress in the ARCIC II ecumenical talks, which have considered justification and
other issues separating the Catholic and Anglican churches. News was also presented of detailed preparations for three spring conferences — in Nottingham, Bangor and St Andrews — planned for the next stage in the inter-faith dialogue, Not Strangers But Pilgrims.
The permanent diaconate, enthusiastically supported in some dioceses and almost non existent in others, was discussed. Talks about pastoral care for marriages and families built on Low Week deliberations, while a South Africa update considered Church policy on apartheid in the light of events since the bishops' May statement.
Two delegates were selected for the Synod of Bishops on the Laity next October.
Cardinal Hume and conference vice-president, Archbishop Derek Worlock of Liverpool, received representatives of the National Conference of Priests and the Conference of Major Religious Superiors.
The Bishops' Committee for Church Music made recommendations to the hierarchy.
On Tuesday, the Pro-nuncio, Archbishop Luigi Barbarito attended the meeting, which closed yesterday, following voting on resolutions during a plenary session.