JOURNALISM: I am realising MAGAZINE WORK is definitely my true journalistic vocation.

Dear Reader,

A special thanks to Canon Brian O’Shea who writes about our search for our third Newman Intern in our letters page in the magazine this week: “The saint’s kindly light surely shines on your inspiration to encourage aspiring journalists, when there are now so few openings. Your fostering of young people who are the future of the apostleship of journalism is indeed an enduring and positive glow at the end of this year. Congratulations from someone who hammered relentlessly on the door of the local newspaper’s editor for a chance some 60 years ago. May you be overwhelmed by the response. Whoever the lucky applicant is, I am sure they will receive the encouragement to enjoy shaping words in depth and truth.” We say goodbye shortly to the current intern, Sebastian Milbank, who wrote this newsletter last week. Our first intern, Madoc Cairns, has returned and is working for us as a reporter (and resident coffee-maker). I feel extremely blessed to be working at The Tablet. My own career in journalism followed a path that was once the industry standard – indentures on a provincial, followed by nearly 30 years on national newspapers. My original training, at the London College of Printing, was in magazine journalism, where incidentally one of my tutors was Wynford Hicks, who once dated Boris Johnson’s mother Charlotte. Four decades later, I find I am using for the first time some of the skills he and other tutors taught me, especially in terms of magazine production for print. Magazine journalism, I am realising, is definitely my true journalistic vocation. So I would also like to say a “thank you” and Merry Christmas to all my colleagues at The Tablet, as well as those taking the time to read this newsletter. Without all of you, none of this would be possible.

1.  The Archbishops of Westminster and Canterbury have urged people to get vaccinated, with Archbishop Justin Welby declaring that it is a moral issue. By Ellen Teague. In Austria, the Catholic Church has become Europe’s first to support compulsory nationwide vaccinations, ahead of their enforcement there in February. Catholic bishops in eastern Africa have also urged people to take the vaccine, report Jonathan Luxmoore and Fredrick Nzwili.

2. The Vatican says that men and women who take on the role of “catechists” are “co-responsible” with clergy for the Church’s mission and can take on the “pastoral care” of a parish when there is a shortage of priests, reports Christopher Lamb. Chris also reports on the Pope’s description of domestic violence as “satanic”. And in the print edition, he assesses Pope Francis’ year: “At the beginning of 2021, I wrote that as Pope Francis was seeking to press ahead with his reforms, he was showing no sign of slowing down. This year, Francis has not simply kept up the pace of change – he has moved into top gear. The Pope seems determined not to waste what he sees as a critical, epoch-shifting, kairos moment to reshape the Church for the twenty-first century.”

3. St Benet’s Hall is to halt temporarily the admission of undergraduate students due to a “challenging financial situation”. By Madoc Cairns.

4. Krish Kandiah reviews The Jesus Music, the story of contemporary Christian music. In the magazine, Joanna Moorhead visits “Christmas alley”, festooned with Christmas cribs, in Naples. Eamon Duffy reviews James G Clark’s new history, “The Dissolution of the Monasteries”.

5. As a young Catholic and a “person of colour in a largely white-English parish”, William Gomes sees the current synodal process as the most significant and, without question, the most remarkable ecclesial event of his lifetime. Read his reflection here. In our letters page in the print edition, Clare Owens looks at the synodal process, suggesting the Church’s hierarchical pyramid be inverted, as Pope Francis wants to happen. “The people, who are 99.5 per cent of the Church – would be at the top.”

6. Bishops across Africa have been putting out Christmas and new year messages, focusing on peace and justice. Catholic bishops in Ghana have expressed their concern over what they have described as a “growing culture of insults and disrespect” among the Ghanaian people. Francis Njuguna in Nairobi reports. In the print edition, Donald Macintyre visits the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

7. The chapel of St John’s Seminary, Wonersh, can be stripped of its treasures ahead of being converted to secular use, but strict conditions have been imposed, reports Elena Curti.

8. Even before the Taliban takeover in August, the latest upheaval in more than 40 years of war, Afghans were suffering a devastating third wave of Covid. But what has brought the country to the brink of famine is climate change. Christine Allen of Cafod looks at the problems there and elsewhere, along with what happened at COP26 in her review of the year. At the same time, Cafod, a member of the Disasters Emergency Committee, has just launched an appeal for Afghanistan, where thousands of people are at risk of starvation. Mary’s Meals has also recorded a special message for church leaders to raise further awareness of its work to reach some of the world’s poorest children with the promise of a daily meal in school.

9. The Prime Minister is fighting a war on many fronts. Clifford Longley analyses the paradox of Boris Johnson, a libertarian, following the star of science. In the print edition, law professor Conor Gearty argues that under Boris Johnson’s morally bankrupt administration, this country’s malaise has deepened and without dramatic constitutional reform, Britain will continue its slide towards cronyism.

10. “The birth of any child, of course, is never anything less than a miracle, but the hand of God is more miraculously manifest in these two births than any other. Indeed, it could be said that both are parables of a miraculously new world, a world in which fertility and fruitfulness depend, not on material advantage or physical prowess, but on the power of God’s providential generosity.” The latest sermon from Fr Alban McCoy OFM Conv.

Ruth Gledhill

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