BY A STAFF REPORTER THE worsening social conditions in many areas of Merseyside were deplored by a conference of priests of the dioceses of Liverpool and Shrewsbury, meeting last week. In a resolution the conference referred specifically to unemployment, housing and the lack of constructive communication between the people and local administrative bodies.
The meeting was arranged by the Commission for International Justice and Peace of the Episcopal Conference of England and Wales, and arose out of a belief that many priests were uncertain of their role and competence when faced with social problems locally. It was also felt that the social response of the Church to problems arising from the world-wide problem of urbanisation was inadequate and largely ineffective.
Mr. Ken McDermott. Deputy Director of Social Services in Birkenhead. highlighted conditions in the inner city of Liverpool and in the North End of Birkenhead. He said that he had been in charge of government-aided community development projects in a district developed typically from the immense influx of Irishmen in famine times.
This was still largely a Cath ()lie district but with distinct 'Orange' enclaves nearby. and there was a great sense of cornmunty within a small. easily
Problems in affecting change in such poor areas arose because, even when sympathy was established, it was hard to find a common language.
JARGON All institutions, including the Church, used a jargon different to that used by the deprived community.
Most social workers, too, were from the suburbs. and had nothing in common with the sub-culture of the inner city. Another problem was that city corporations did not take note of the desire of the people to take part in forward planning which would radically change their lives.
More important was the fact that individual social workers, and priests were trained to deal basis, where only a 'ministry' of groups-to-groups was found to be effective.
In meeting with priests to try to key the resources of the Church into the resources of the local authority, Mr. McDermott found that a principal
obstacle was the discordant relationship among priests themselves.
Some older priests found it hard to absorb modern jargon and were unable to appreciate the need for new methods in new situations.
Dr. Kevin Kelly. of Upholland College, said that concern for justice was the necessary hallmark of a Christian. Justice was neither static nor merely individualistic.
RESTITUTION Discussing the problems arsing from individual ownership, namely theft, restitution, etc., he said that divine creation was for the benefit of all men, and private property subordinate to the common good.
Dr. Kelly also said that the Church must acknowledge that
she contained corruption and sin before she could cope with social injustice.
The future involvement of the Church would have to be at the local level. according to Fr. John Fitzsimmons, parish priest of St. Timothy's, Liverpool. It must work towards a real change of heart among Christians, by the insistent preaching of the Beatitudes in the affluent society. It should attack problems in the fields of housing and unemployment, and should seek to affect political as well as economic decisions in the third world.
A report of the conference. and the resolutions tabled, were made to the Archbishop of Liverpool and the Bishop of Shrewsbury.
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A week of prayer for Ulster began on Sunday in churches of all denominations 'throughout England and Wales.
Speaking at St. Oswald's Church, Peterborough, Bishop Grant of Northampton said : "A small group of people arc trying by violent methods to secure a united Ireland.
"The Catholic bishops of the area have condemned these actions in the strongest terms .. . We pray for the souls of those who have died, and remember with compassion all those who live in fear ...
"While we remember the immediate violent situation, we cannot forget the causes behind it — the fear and consequent hatred which have so dominated the life of Northern Ireland — a Christian community . . . The all-too-common experience in matters political and social, particularly in the questions of employment, has been one of rank injustice."
Prosperity, with plenty of work shared fairly among all sections of the community, was one remedy for the present situation on which all should agree, In the emergency debate on Northern Ireland in Parliament last week, Mr. Norman St.
J 0 hn-Stevas, Conservative M.P. for Chelmsford, said the course of the debate had abundantly justified the recall of Parliament.
"Indeed, even if this had been a very poor debate it would have been right to have recalled Parliament," he said, "because we still enjoy in Britain Government by discussion." On an issue as vital to the United Kingdom it was fitting and right that the voice of Parliament should be heard.
Many people took a despairing view of the situation, Mr. St. John-Stevas said, and concluded that British troops should withdraw from Northern Ireland. This was not a policy, but an emotional reaction. If our troops were withdrawn, the situation would only become worse.
In the Lords debate, the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke of three essentials: Northern Ireland must remain part of the United Kingdom; considerable reforms must be made in the role of minorities in Northern Ireland; and violence must cease.
"Bigotry, fear and violence are the most conspicuous part of the story just now," he said. "But they are not the whole story." Bigotry was in fact declining quietly in Ulster as elsewhere, and in places
Catholics were joining Protestants in each other's churches and praying for reconciliation.