Liz Truss MP, Minister of State for Women and Equalities. / Ian Davidson Photography/Shutterstock
Denver Newsroom, Sep 6, 2022 / 17:00 pm (CNA).
In a congratulatory message to new British Prime Minister Liz Truss, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster has pledged his prayers and the Church’s support for addressing various crises, including in the cost of living.
“I wish to assure the prime minister of my prayerful support,” Nichols said, speaking as president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. “Her appointment comes at a time when many crises have to be faced, at home and across the world.”
Truss, 47, succeeds Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson. She was formally appointed by Queen Elizabeth II on Sept. 6, after winning the Conservative Party leadership vote. Truss won with about 81,000 votes, 57% of party voters, over rival Rishi Sunak.
She has promised tax cuts of up to $34.5 billion for emergency budget legislation, on the grounds this will grow the economy and prevent a recession. These cuts include a temporary halt to environmental taxes on energy bills and the elimination of a rise in corporate tax.
Annual household energy bills showed a record 54% spike in April. Last month, Britain’s energy regulator said another 80% increase is coming. This means annual bills will rise from $2,332 to $4,089. Costs could rise again in January to over $4,600, the Associated Press reports.
The massive increase is due to Russia’s war in Ukraine, which has caused a spike in natural gas prices across Europe. This in turn increases the costs of natural gas-powered heating and electricity.
Nichols’ message cited the cost of living as one prominent crisis. He said that Catholics are present in every local community and so are “well aware of the dramatic impact this crisis is having.”
Many people now face choices between paying for heat or paying for food and winter is approaching, he noted.
“The affluence to which our society has become accustomed seems to be seeping away,” he said.
Nichols said he and his fellow bishops recognize the complexity of the causes of the energy crisis.
“There are many Catholics in public life and in the charitable sector who are engaging in trying to produce long-term solutions to these political and economic challenges,” he said.
The cardinal briefly suggested Catholic social teaching as a guide to the various crises.
“The principle of serving the common good means that the needs of the poorest in society must be given urgent attention,” he said. “The time for giving priority to factional interests has passed. Today our focus should be on the elderly, families who have the care of children, and all those least able to absorb the huge increases in the cost of living that we face.”
Specifically, Nichols called for immediate attention to the level of welfare benefits and the two-child cap on universal credit payments.
“Businesses too, especially small businesses, are facing acute challenges and will need help to survive,” he added. “Their support for employment and family income is crucial.”
The centralized welfare and public services system could benefit from the active participation of private individuals and civil society, said the cardinal, citing the Catholic social principle of subsidiarity.
Cardinal Nichols urged all Catholics to “give whatever time and financial resources they can to charitable endeavors that support those who are affected by the current crisis.” He praised Catholic schools’ long record of supporting children whose families are struggling.
“The work of our local parishes, and of Catholic charitable agencies, is based on the firm conviction of the inherent dignity of every person,” he said. “No one is to be cast aside or ‘discounted’. I am confident that throughout this crisis, the Catholic community will do all we can to act on this conviction and promote this principle.”
“I trust that our parish communities will always be open to those suffering from hardship and in particular need of companionship and spiritual support at this time,” the cardinal continued. “They can help us to understand the humility we must have before God.”
“The spiritual needs of the poor and their special gifts should never be forgotten,” he added.
Nichols asked for prayers for everyone suffering from the cost-of-living crisis. He invoked St. Thomas More, patron saint of those serving in politics and public life, and St. Bernadette, patron saint of the poor.
“I pray that all in our society will work together to find ways, both short and long term, to alleviate this crisis which threatens the well-being of so many people,” he said.
During her tenure, Truss must also deal with the Ukraine crisis after the invasion of Russia. Northern Ireland and European Union relations are also expected to be problems, as the exit of the U.K. from the European Union continues to pose economic and political challenges.