One million Catholics in England to be given 'faith cards' to carry in their wallets
EVERY devout Roman Catholic in England and Wales is to be given a credit card-sized reminder to share their faith with others.
The church hierarchy is printing 1million of the cards – equal to the number that attend Mass every Sunday – to remind them of what they are called to do.
They also state that a Catholic priest should be called to administer the last rites if the holder of the card falls gravely ill or is involved in an accident.
On the back is a quotation from the Blessed John Henry Newman, the famous Victorian convert to Rome who was beatified by the Pope recently.
The initiative comes after Benedict XVI announced a “year of faith” in which Catholics will be called to do more to spread the Gospel.
As highlighted in his historic address at Westminster Hall, the church fears that worshippers are being forced to keep their beliefs private and act against their consciences in an increasingly secular Europe.
The Rt Rev Kieran Conry, chairman of the Bishops’ Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis, said: “We all carry a variety of cards in our purses and wallets which reflect something of our identity and the things that are important to us.
“The faith card for Catholics aims to offer a daily reminder of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. We can’t summarise the whole of our faith in bullet points, but we hope that the card simply inspires people to do, read and learn more.”
He went on: “The card is also designed to give Catholics confidence to share their faith – often people need help knowing what to say. Faith is a not a private matter. This is something that Pope Benedict reminded the Catholic community in his recent letter announcing a Year of Faith, beginning in October 2012.
“Carrying a faith card takes courage, it signals to others, every time you use your wallet or purse, that you believe in God, that your life has a purpose, that you are trying to love and serve your neighbour. We hope that Catholics will use it to witness to their faith. If someone asks a question about Catholicism, a starting point could be to show the card and to take it from there.”
It is the first time that the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales has encouraged believers to carry cards declaring their faith, although religious bookshops sell medals asking for a priest to be called in the event of an accident while some churchgoers hold rosary beads as they pray or wear small crosses round their necks.
A few other denominations give out membership materials such as the Methodist Church, which has “discipleship cards”.
Under the new Catholic initiative, said to have cost just €7.2 m, one million cards are being printed and sent to 24 dioceses.
The diocesan officers will then give them away free to Mass-going adults.
One side of the card, designed to be carried in wallets or purses, has a space for the holder to sign his or her name and a “clear statement that the carrier is a Catholic” alongside an image of a crucifix.
It states that Catholics are called to “share with others the joy of knowing Jesus Christ”, pray, celebrate the sacraments regularly, “love my neighbour as myself”, “use the gifts that I’ve been given wisely” and “forgive as I have been forgiven”.
At the bottom of the card it states: “In the event of an emergency please contact a Catholic priest.”
On the reverse is the link to the church’s website, an image of Jesus and a quotation from Cardinal Newman about the “definite service” for which God created him.
“I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons,” it states. “I shall do good and be a preacher of truth in my own place.”
Elizabeth Hunter, director of the religion think-tank Theos, said: "If it does spark more casual conversations about faith, that would be a good thing.
"Religion is a really important part of many people's lives and it shouldn't be a taboo subject, but something we're as ready to discuss (and probably disagree on) down the pub as work, sport or relationships."