May 14, 2011
|Archbishop Vincent Nichols|
The practice became less common after the Church relaxed rules on how the day could be observed in 1984, and is nowadays practised by most only on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
Now the Church is keen to reintroduce the rule to help unify the faithful and boost their common identity.
Church head Archbishop Vincent Nichols said the decision had been inspired by Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Britain last September and the enthusiasm showed for abstaining from meat during Lent.
He said the papal visit had given Catholics “a fresh expression of self-confidence and identity”.
“We observed there was a greater enthusiasm amongst many Catholics to observe the penance in Lent,” he said.
“What we’ve sought to do in this decision is establish a shared practice.”
The rule is due to come into force on September 16, the first anniversary of the Pope’s visit to Britain.
Vegetarian Catholics are being encouraged to give up another food on Fridays instead, while all Catholics are still being invited to mark the day in other ways, such as by offering prayers or attending Mass.
The Archbishop said: “Every Friday is set aside by the Church as a special day of penance, for it is the day of the death of our Lord.”
He continued: “The bishops wish to re-establish the practice of Friday penance in the lives of the faithful as a clear and distinctive mark of their own Catholic identity.
“They recognise that the best habits are those which are acquired as part of a common resolve and common witness.
“It is important that all the faithful be united in a common celebration of Friday penance.”