The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales estimates that there are more than 4 million Catholics in England and Wales.
For Catholics, access to the ministry of the Church and in particular, the sacraments, is an essential part of life. Whilst in an ecumenical and inter-faith context, appreciation of other traditions and pastoral support is welcome; there are particular aspects of Catholic faith and practice which can only be met by those who are appropriately trained and mandated to minister by their bishop, and NHS policy and equality legislation recognise and respect this need and right.
The sacrament of Holy Communion can be brought to the sick in hospital by a priest, deacon or, a duly trained lay minister but the sacraments of Penance; and the Anointing of the Sick can only be administered by a Catholic priest.
Even those Catholics who may have had little contact with the Church for some time will often request or expect to be visited by a Catholic chaplain whilst in hospital. Many return to the practice of their faith at times of crisis, serious illness, or injury.
The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales created a Healthcare Reference Group in 2003 which has recently changed its name to the Health and Social Care Advisory Group to reflect the integration of healthcare and social care in recent years.
The Health and Social Care Advisory Group has clear priorities for action:
- Building networks with chaplains
- Developing networks with the wider group of Catholic health and social care workers
- Mental Health Project
- Conferences and seminars
- Social media development to support the work
- Small grants programme
- The articulation of a Catholic spirituality of healthcare in the 21st Century
For more information and to access publications please go to: www.cbcew.org.uk/Healthcare