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Pastoral Message - Rt Rev. Tom Burns

To members of the Catholic Police Guild and colleagues.

Today in the Catholic Church worldwide we celebrate the Feast of St Joseph the Worker. I was 11 years old when Pope Pius XII, ten years after the end of WW2, established this Feast in 1955. Rationing had finally come to an end just a year before that, but hardships continued regarding food and jobs. In the fragile peace and re-building of livelihoods that ensued, the Pope wanted to acknowledge the value of human work for the benefit of families and society; to underline the importance of fatherhood and paternal protection; to remind firms of every employee’s right to fair wages and conditions of work; and to make a counter-statement to marches and displays of armaments in Red Square in Moscow on “Labour Day”.

Some of the Pope’s sentiments about hardship, unemployment, families, protection, fair wages, and armaments are relevant still today, especially in new forms of “rationing” and restrictions brought on by the C-virus. Our police forces have had to adapt to maintaining law and order in new circumstances. Without the general public’s goodwill and consent the job would be impossible. That general compliance comes in response to police tolerance and understanding. Whilst back-up is available to combat the un-cooperative, a show of heavy-handedness rarely triumphs over extending the hand of empathy. In my youth, there was one hand that was universally respected every year on Remembrance Day. Before traffic-lights became widespread, a Police Constable would step out into the middle of the road, and raise his white-gloved hand, at exactly 11 a.m. The traffic would come to a standstill. Drivers and pedestrians alike observed one minute’s silence for the war-dead. It was an amazing gesture of respect and unity.

In these recent months, I have seen a similar kind of respect and unity. People have been pulling together, contributing time and resources, helping each other out, re-stocking food-banks, delivering food and necessities, raising money for charity, and a host of other kindnesses and acts of selflessness on a larger scale than I have ever seen before in my lifetime. NHS workers have been hailed as heroes. Last night I went out into the street and joined the clapping for them. I rang my (old school) bell, to a background noise of fire-works. Then I remembered our Police Forces, and I rang the bell even harder! The C-virus does not discriminate. It is with us for the long-haul. It is a marathon runner and not a sprinter. The Police have not escaped its evil tentacles. Officers and support staff have been afflicted or have had to self-isolate; others have had to step in to cover their duties. The criminal fraternity have disgracefully exploited these times for their own greed and advantage. But police tact and good humour have continued to win the day in the eyes of a generally grateful public. This has induced compliance with police directions. It has avoided challenges to authority and the risk of overthrowing it. It has reflected mutual patience and consideration. For, we are all in this together, whether we wear a uniform or not. But some are more exposed than others. They are on the front-line. More than anyone, they know that what we have today we may not have tomorrow.

But, as a chocaholic, I don’t want another Easter without a chocolate egg!


Rt Rev. Tom Burns SM BA BD

Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Menevia

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