The head of the Roman Catholic Church in Britain has praised immigration, saying that a Britain without it is a fantasy and that the mass movement of people involved has brought enrichment. He berated the west’s “weary”, and “secularised society”, praising immigrants for bringing “new hope”.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols comments came at the Birmingham launch event of a Catholic evangelical program.
During a media panel, an audience member pondered whether it wasn’t strange for the Catholic Church to be embarking on an evangelical drive, as the Catholic church was not seeing the drop in numbers that other churches are. He asked whether there was a fear that if, “when you strip immigration away, there is a falling away?”
Cardinal Nichols seized on the question to eulogise about immigration, saying:
“Stripping out immigration, then we’re talking about some world that isn’t Britain. You cannot talk about this city stripped of immigration because this city is an international city.
“If you strip out immigration from the equation we’re talking about a place that doesn’t exist.
“It’s a false premise to begin to say, well let’s just talk about the indigenous British who are the Catholics. We are a mixed race. We are an island. People arrive here from all over the world. They bring different talents in readiness. I could take you to the middle of Oxfordshire, very English, and show you a Catholic church which was built 40 years ago by Irish men who were working on the roads. Now do I pull that church down? Is that an expression of immigrant faith? So you can’t separate them. We have to take the reality of Catholic life as it is today.”
He went on to praise immigrants for their contribution to diversity, saying that the church is “enormously enriched by those who come here.
“Every parish that I go to, certainly in this diocese, has people from at least 20 different nationalities. The faith is a huge point of social cohesion that people from different strata in society and different cultural backgrounds come together.”
He countered that the difficulties the church faces are with “secularlised western culture”, praising immigrants for the “energy” that they bring to a “wearied western secularised culture is giving it new hope, … new resilience and enthusiasm. It rubs off on us, it rubs off on us weary Westerners. We should take great heart from the fact that we’re discovering again under that impetus some of our own wellsprings of faith.”
Earlier in the session he said that our culture is starting to wake up to the fact that it needs more than the “shallow soil” of British values, saying “of course they are good values … that belong to many people, but we need deep nurturing soil. There is a sense that we’ve lost our way a bit.”