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Dear Members, 
 
Catholic Union Head of Public Affairs James Somerville-Meikle comments:

If the Government thought imposing a national lockdown was tough, it turns out that local lockdowns are even harder. The very public, and at times tense, negotiations between Ministers and advisers in Whitehall and local leaders has shown that any political consensus for the Government’s response to the pandemic has all but evaporated. But it seems that a new consensus has emerged on the need to keep places of worship open, which is some welcome news. None of the three new tiers of “local Covid alert levels” announced by the Government this week imposes extra restrictions on places of worship. There had been fears that churches, which were some of the last places to open as national lockdown measures were eased, might be among the first to close in a second wave of the virus. However, sources in Government say there is no evidence linking the spread of the virus in this country with churches, and advisers have been impressed by the steps taken in parishes to keep churches Covid-secure. Let’s keep up the good work!

PARLIAMENTARY AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS COMMITTEE
 
The Catholic Union's Parliamentary and Public Affairs Committee met virtually on 13 October and discussed among other things the Domestic Abuse Bill, the Immigration Bill, the report by Danny Kruger MP on "Levelling Up Our Communities", Covid, and the recent papal encyclical Fratelli Tutti.
 
FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF
 
Government urging universities to take action on Anti-Semitism. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has said that the Government could ask the Office for Students to take “regulatory action”, including suspending some funding, if universities failed to adopt the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism by the end of 2020. A Freedom of Information Request revealed that 29 out of 133 universities have adopted the definition so far.
 

HERITAGE
 
Government funding to support church buildings. The Catholic Trust for England and Wales has been granted £3 million from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund to help support Grade I and II historic Catholic churches.
 

HOMELESSNESS/POVERTY
 
Preparing for winter. The Government has announced a £12m fund to help rough sleepers off the streets and keep them safe from Covid-19 this winter. Public Health England also published guidance on how to open night shelters safely without endangering residents or staff. Commenting, 18 health and homeless organisations warned that social distancing in shelters would prove “all but impossible”. In a separate article in PoliticsHome, Labour MP Neil Coyle, Co-Chair of the APPG for Ending Homelessness, warned that the Government would put lives at risk if they allowed non-Covid secure communal shelters to open this winter.
 
Plea against poverty. Faith leaders in Scotland, including Bishop Nolan, Justice & Peace Scotland’s President, have called on the UK and Scottish Governments to make changes to the social security system to stem the rising tide of poverty.
 
 
MIGRATION

Bishops call for safe passage for migrants
. The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales have submitted evidence to a Parliamentary inquiry into "Channel crossings, migration and asylum-seeking routes through the EU". The Bishops urged the Government to accept that providing migrants with safe and legal routes is the "only way of preventing dangerous crossings or exploitation by traffickers".
 
Lack of action to implement migration reform. Wendy Williams, author of the Windrush Lessons Learned Independent Reviewhas expressed concerns about the Government’s lack of progress in reviewing the compliant immigration environment policies – although Home Secretary Priti Patel committed to implementing all 30 of the recommendations made in the report.
 
Bishops Conference’s support to Hate Crime Awareness Week. On Hate Crime Awareness Week, Bishop Paul McAleenan, Catholic Bishop Lead for Migrants and Refugees, has called on people to oppose racism, “including Islamophobia, Antisemitism, hatred towards migrants and refugees, and hostility against Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities”.
 
WEBINARS/EVENTS

Wednesday 21 October at 12.30pm
Render Unto Caesar? The relationship between Christians and the State. Dominican Forum online talk and discussion with Fr Richard Ounsworth OP.  For free registration and information about future talks see here.

Wednesday 21 October at 7.30pm
What are worldview and why should schools teach them?  The launch of Theos's latest report "Worldviews in Religious Education".  See here for free registration and other details.
The Catholic Union News is compiled by Lisa Fraser with additional contributions from James Somerville-Meikle and Nigel Parker.

If you’re a Catholic charity, or if you work in parliamentary/public affairs, and you would like us to flag specific items in this newsletter, please send the information to: lisa.ingrid.fraser@gmail.com.
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