Archbishop Martin and Bishop McKeown speak out on 'life threatening levels of deprivation'
The Archbishop of Armagh & Primate of All-Ireland and Bishop of Derry were co-signatories to a hard-hitting statement on the current economic crisis that was issued on behalf of northern Catholic bishops on the Feast of Saint Vincent de Paul.
The senior clerics said they were raising their voices out of 'urgent concern about the challenges facing the most vulnerable in our society, as multiple economic pressures converge to create life threatening levels of deprivation and fear for individuals and businesses'.
"For the poorest in our society, this is an emergency, not a crisis. We call on everyone, from public representatives to parishioners in our parishes, to come together in a spirit of solidarity and active concern for those who are in need among us at this time.
"Every day seems to bring news of dramatic and unplanned increases in the cost of basic essentials such as food, fuel and heating. More and more low and middle income families, older people and vital businesses in our economy, are gripped with fear as they think about what lies ahead this autumn and winter.
"The recent Westminster budget has done little to lift this fear and the absence of an Executive at Stormont is unquestionably impeding the effort to respond to the depth and urgency of the situation.
"We therefore urge a combined effort from all those in Church, politics and society to help address this crisis now; to act justly, to promote the common good and to show solidarity with the many thousands of families who are enduring hardship and worry," they stated.
The bishops pointed to high levels of deprivation in the north with 'one in four children are living in poverty - one of the highest levels of child poverty of any population in Europe',
They also referred to figures from the Marriage Care Service, ACCORD, which revealed 81% of those surveyed reported that worries concerning money were 'a primary point of family and relationship pressure'.
The bishops said the British Chancellor's growth plan announced last week gave to the rich and did little for the poor.
"Politicians have a particular duty to ensure the basic needs of citizens are being met and to reassure those in need that serious, meaningful help is on its way. What has been offered to date, does not go far enough to meet that need. Indeed, the 'fiscal plan' presented last week to the Westminster parliament represents an unjust distribution of resources which will benefit the richest but bring little comfort to those hardest hit and most at risk in these trying times.
"This highlights once more the need for working devolved politics in Northern Ireland that can deliver for the real needs of people here, especially lowest income families and many small and medium businesses, key employers on this part of the island, on the brink of collapse.
"Despite political differences about the Protocol and a future border poll, the most urgent duty on our local MLAs, of all parties, is to prioritise concrete actions that will address the life or death situation many people and businesses face now, and in the months ahead," they said.