by Martin Newland ST BEDE'S School, Cambridge will be hosting the biggest ever diocesan general assembly and conference on July 18.
Everybody in the diocese is invited to the open assembly which is being held to discuss and legislate for the future needs of East Anglia diocese. The day comes at the end of a long process of consultation of the laity on their aspirations and needs in the Church.
Festivities on the day will be accompanied by a more sombre theme as delegates attempt to solve the problem of a shortage of priests in the diocese.
The influx of people into the three-county diocese has brought with it a corresponding increase in the Catholic population. "While warmly welcoming this increase, we have to reckon with the fact of fewer priests," said Bishop Alan Clark of East Anglia.
Fr Gary Dowsey, the bishop's secretary admitted that there had been too much attention given to the shortage of priests when publicising the conference. "This acknowledgement of the ministry of the laity in the
Church would have taken place even if we were ordaining 100 priests this year," Fr Dowsey told the Catholic Herald.
"Our aim now is to build on this (lay) experience, as part of a five-year strategy. It is a golden opportunity for people to strengthen their Christian commitment," said Bishop Clark.
One way in which lay involvement will achieve legislative power will be their inclusion in Diocesan Pastoral Advisory Team which will define the diocese's pastoral strategies in all major areas.