Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster has described the violent rioting over the last few days as “shocking” and called for a common effort to “bring out the best in our society and not the worst”.
“The criminal violence and theft that have been witnessed are to be condemned,” the archbishop said yesterday. “They are a callous disregard for the common good of our society and show how easily basic principles of respect and honesty are cast aside.
“I ask that Catholics pray especially for those directly affected by the violence, for those facing danger on the streets, for those whose livelihood has been ruined, for those whose lives are marked by fear, for those whose parents are worried about the behaviour of their youngsters and for those who, at this time, are being tempted into the ways of violence and theft.”
The archbishop continued: “In the face of these difficulties, a forthright common effort is needed to ensure that these times bring out the best in our society and not the worst. I am sure that, as Catholic citizens, we shall play our part with clear principles for living, both as individuals and as a society, with honesty, compassion and prayer.”
He concluded: “May God grant us courage and determination to shape our lives with dignity, self-respect and care for the common good.”
On Tuesday, the riots spread to Liverpool, where hundreds of youths torched cars and launched bottles, stones and fireworks at police.
Auxiliary Bishop Tom Williams said there was a danger the violence could leave “a lasting scar” on the city.
He said: “It goes without saying that we do not condone mindless violence and destruction of property. There is a danger that the events of recent hours will leave a lasting scar on our community and our city. We therefore pray that there will be a speedy return to peace.”
Meanwhile, two Catholic Sisters who live and work in Tottenham described the riot there which sparked the disturbances across Britain as “devastating” and “selfish”.
Sister Sylvia of the Sisters of Marie Auxiliatrice, which works with young and under-privileged people, said: “It was quite devastating. The people of Tottenham, everything had come together, they were doing everything they could to build up the area. It’s a pity that all this has happened.”
Sister Margarita said: “What has been done has deprived local people of their jobs. It’s selfish to go out breaking up everything because they’re angry.”
The church of St Francis de Sales is on Tottenham High Road, very near to the original riot. Fr Francesco Discboli, who is looking after the parish while the priest is away, said: “All the noise woke me up. When I saw the helicopters and the smoke I realised what was going on.”