Britain’s Catholics have been urged to make more effort to follow religious custom and abstain from eating meat on Fridays, potentially boosting sales of fish.
Church law required Catholics over the centuries to comply with this abstinence as part of Friday penance, the day set aside for special prayer and fasting to mark the day Jesus died. Traditionally Catholics have opted to eat fish instead, though a combination of new church guidance and changing eating habits has eroded this habit.
Now the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales wants to re-establish the practice of Friday penance and its abstinence from eating meat as a symbol of a simple shared act of self-denial.
“I think Catholics will welcome this,” the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, told reporters. “What we have sought to do in this decision is to establish a shared practice, a shared habit, because habits that are carried out together are better learned and are stronger — we give each other mutual support. So that’s why there’s a simple, across-the-board expectation that this will be something that Catholics will do.”
In 1984, the Church broadened its list of things Catholics could do to mark Friday penance in an attempt to attract more people to take part, but it only seemed to dilute adherence to the non-meat rule. The Church hopes the practice will be resumed from September 16 to mark the first anniversary of Pope Benedict’s visit to England and Scotland.