The practice of abstaining from eating meat on Fridays is to return in England and Wales later this year.
“I think Catholics will welcome this,” said Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, president of the Bishops Conference of England & Wales.
The decision was made by the bishops of both countries this week and announced to the media May 13.
“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.”
The practice of abstaining from meat on a Friday was traditionally a way of remembering that Jesus Christ died on that day. The Church in England and Wales dropped the centuries-old custom in 1984. At the time they was stressed that other forms of Friday penance were also acceptable. The result, though, seemed to be that practice of Friday penance seemed to fall away altogether.
Not surprisingly, the bishops’ decision is being welcomed by the owner of the fish and chips shop around the corner from the cathedral in central London.
“It’s a good decision, primarily for religious reasons rather than reasons of business,” Osman Ismael of the Friars Inn told CNA.
“Interestingly, though, Friday is still our busiest day when it comes to selling fish and chips. So perhaps the custom never really went away.”
The decision will go into effect on September 16, the first anniversary of Pope Benedict’s visit to Scotland and England.