On Tuesday evening, we were hosted by Rt Rev Mgr John Armitage, Vicar General of Brentwood. As Vicar-General, he exercises episcopal jurisdiction on behalf of the Bishop, and is the second-highest ranking cleric in the diocese after Bishop Thomas McMahon. We had previously met Mgr Armitage at a Catholic Voices event, and he is also well known for his work with London Citizens, a community organising alliance supported by figures such as Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor and London Mayor Boris Johnson, and knew him to be a man of incredible insight and passion.
Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament was a beautiful way to begin the evening, and a few of us even found ourselves assisting- a first for me, I will admit, having never been inside a cassock before..
Afterwards, we joined Mgr Armitage in the presbytery, and over dinner (which was delicious- it’s all about the pastry) we discussed all manner of issues in the church, and in the community. His parishes in east London is touched by many social and economic problems, and he is a vocal advocate for communities working together to make politicians aware of the problems they face, and the solutions they need. London Voices has campaigned for a ‘London living wage’, has pressed for the employment opportunities of the London Olympics to benefit local people first, and has called on the Government to regularise failed asylum seekers and visa over-stayers proficient in English who are already established and hard-working members of their communities.
London Voices also offer internships and a Summer Academy, as well as being linked with Queen Mary’s Master’s Degree in Community Organising, the first in the world, recognising as the Bishops have done with our own scheme the value of preparing young people with a thorough and practically based awareness of the important issues facing our communities and our world today.
Great conversation, delicious food and good company- Fr John, you’re a gentleman.