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Bishop Egan: Catholics must be holy before they can win converts

Bishop Philip Egan

Bringing people closer to Jesus Christ through his Church is the heart of a new eight-point plan launched by Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth – and the most basic need is for Catholics to become holy.

On the fifth anniversary of his episcopal ordination, Bishop Egan set out his plan in the diocesan newsletter.

The first priority is mission, to “enable immeasurably more people to hear the Gospel afresh”; the second is to “assist all Catholics, especially those who are not yet practising, to reach a deeper personal relationship with Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist, to be more intentional disciples and, discerning their charisms, to become more actively engaged in the Church’s mission”.

Thirdly, in “shifting from maintenance to mission”, he wrote, “we trust more completely in God through prayer, imploring the Holy Spirit to inspire our clergy and our laity with constant joy and creativity to develop and realise new, innovative ministries and ways of Christian living”.

His fourth priority is to “help our parish and school communities to become outward-facing service-centres”.

These four priorities lead to three specific focuses or areas of attention, he said. These are focus on youth, promoting vocations and prioritising the diocese’s resources.

But the most basic need, he wrote, “is that Portsmouth Catholics become holy”. This means, he said, “That we seek holiness of life in imitation of Jesus, obedient (ob-audire) to God and legitimate authority, loving and respecting one another, and filled with the Holy Spirit, that we foster a joyful, positive, ‘can-do’ attitude.”

Evangelisation has been a key focus of Bishop Egan.

Earlier this year he called on Catholics to “lead the new evangelisation of our land” in the light of two dangers, fundamentalism – “religion without reason” – and secularism – “reason without religion”.

Last month, he announced the opening a the Adoremus Centre on Alderney in the Channel Islands as a “powerhouse of prayer” in support of the “new evangelisation” – proclaiming the Gospel to a secularised society.

Last October Bishop Egan said that in all Catholic schools the “entire curriculum should be … centred on Christ”, and said that Eucharistic Adoration and contemplative prayer should begin in the primary school to help pupils “build up a personal relationship with Jesus”.