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Tina Beattie, Professor of Catholic Studies at the University of Roehampton:
Good Morning. Yesterday, many churches reopened for public worship in England, though not in Scotland and Wales. The return to communal worship has been celebrated by some and viewed with anxiety by others. I've been particularly interested in how this prolonged period of lockdown and the suspension of mass attendance have affected catholic women, and I've recorded interviews with women around the world about their experiences. Many have spoken of this as a time of transformation in their faith. Amidst all the suffering and struggle there have been epiphanies of wisdom and grace. As liturgical life has shifted from the institutional church to the domestic world, women have become priests of their households, investing ordinary meals with Eucharistic significance and adopting creative new ways of praying and expressing their spirituality *audio edit* ...if the Easter proclamation had not risen from our homes, silence would have covered the hallelujah. I've repeatedly heard the words "We're not going back to the way things were." Not all Catholics share Pope Francis's vision of a transformed church, which hears the cry of the poor and the cry of the earth, but the women I've been speaking to are potentially his greatest allies. There's enormous energy to be tapped, and women need to be fully engaged and equal participants if the church is to forge a new vision of hope and justice for a post Covid era. As the BLM (Black Lives Matter) protests spread around the world, I interviewed a black American Catholic from Alabama. She spoke passionately about the virus and racism in society and the church, but she also described the joy of sitting in her yard, watching lizards basking in the sunshine and hummingbirds coming to feed. Some women I spoke to wondered why there's been so much fuss about church buildings being closed, when the whole of God's creation has been healing and calling us to prayer. George Floyd's words "I can't breathe" were used by some when speaking of the increase in domestic violence during lockdown. A woman from Kerala quoted his words to describe the plight of migrant workers in India. A Peruvian survivor of priestly sexual abuse quoted them when referring to the abuse crisis in the church. And a Zimbabwean said "I can't breathe" to express the plight of victims of rape. That interviewee from Kerala said that we women must join hands around the world, with those of all faiths and philosophies who share our vision. I hope that the churches leaders will be part of that human chain of connection, as we stand on the brink of what may be the last chance we have to avoid an environmental and social catastrophe.
That was "Thought for the Day" with Tina Beattie, professor of Catholic studies at the University of Roehampton.