Politics and Religion: A Symposium

Saturday 6th November 2021

Our next diocesan Symposium – on Politics and Religion - is all set for Saturday 6th November. It’s going to be online, so easy to join in.


It could not be a more exciting line-up of speakers and topics! Our two keynote speakers will tackle “Should Religion have a Role in Politics Today?” They are Rt. Hon. Jacob Rees-Mogg, MP for North East Somerset, Leader of the House of Commons and Lord President of the Council. He has previously been a Member of the Exiting the European Union Committee, the Treasury Select Committee, the Procedure Committee and the European Scrutiny Committee. Our other keynote speaker is the Rt. Hon. Ruth Kelly. As Labour MP for Bolton West (1997-2010 she became the youngest ever woman to serve in the UK Cabinet, holding a number of positions, including Secretary of State for Transport, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Secretary of State for Education and Skills. Since departing political life, Ruth has taken on a number of executive and non-executive  roles and was for five years as Pro-Vice Chancellor of St Mary’s University, Twickenham. She is presently a member of the Vatican’s Council for the Economy.


David Wells, the motivational speaker, https://davidwellslive. com/about-david/ is our presenter for the day.


Besides the Keynotes, there will also be a choice of workshops on immigration, homelessness, diversity, being a Christian on the front line of politics, climate change and Catholic Social Teaching. These will be led by other informed and well-known personalities: Lord David Alton, Rt. Hon. Mark Hoban, Dr. Elizabeth Slinn from the University of Winchester, Dr. Mary Sutton, George O’Neill of the Cardinal Hume Centre, and Rev. Dr. David Goodill op, moral philosopher, from Blackfriars, Oxford. Tickets are available online now. You can purchase your ticket by following the instructions below:



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Saturday 6th November 2021, 10.30 am – 4.15 pm




10:30    INTRODUCTION to Symposium (Presenter: David Wells)

             WELCOME from Bishop Philip Egan, Bishop of Portsmouth

10:45    KEYNOTE: Should Religion have a Role in Politics Today?                 (Rt. Hon. Ruth Kelly)

11:30    Break

11.45     WORKSHOPS

Participants choose (in advance) to participate in one of the following:

1. Religion or politics in immigration: possibilities and limitations of hospitality towards strangers

Dr. Mary Sutton, University of Winchester

2. Can you solve homelessness?

George O’Neill, CEO of the Cardinal Hume Centre

3. Diversity and the New Puritanism

Lord David Alton

12:30    Lunch Break



13:30     KEYNOTE 2: Should Religion have a Role in Politics Today?

                   (Rt. Hon Jacob Rees-Mogg)

14:15    Break

14:30    WORKSHOPS

Participants choose (in advance) to participate in one of the following:

4. Faith on the Front Line of Politics

Rt. Hon. Mark Hoban, Former MP Fareham

5. Climate Change: Big politics or Parish action? How do we respond to Laudato Si?

Dr. Elizabeth Slinn, University of Winchester

6. What is Catholic Social Teaching?

Rev. Dr. David Goodill op, Blackfriars Oxford

15:15    Short Break


15:30    PANEL DISCUSSION (All the Speakers)

16:15    Finish, Thanks and Departures

Our Speakers

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David Wells

David Wells is our presenter for the day. David is used to speaking to thousands around the world and has served in every diocese and corner of England and Wales, as well as many of the dioceses in Scotland.As well as serving on several working parties for the Bishop’s Conference of England and Wales, he has also guest-lectured at three English Universities.David is now a popular speaker and in 2018 he established David Wells Live (


He has an M(Phil) degree from Nottingham University.He has worked in London for the Catholic Education Service providing in-service training opportunities for staff in Catholic schools. This was followed by two Diocesan roles first as an Education Adviser in the Nottingham diocese and then in 2000, in Exeter as Director of Formation for the Plymouth Diocese. Since leaving Plymouth Diocese in May 2018, he has built up a portfolio of projects. He has scripted and presented the video series “” which sold widely throughout the English speaking Church.  He is also the author of three books: , (Redemptorist Publications).


David lives on the River Exe with his wife, Alison.They have three grown-up children and a spoilt dog.


Rt Hon Jacob Rees-Mogg

Jacob was born in May 1969 and was brought up in Somerset at Ston Easton and Hinton Blewett. He was elected as the Member of Parliament for North East Somerset in 2010 and again in 2015 and 2017. He was re-elected in December 2019 with 50.4% of the vote and a majority of 14,729. Being elected fulfilled his ambition to represent the Somerset parliamentary seat in which his family has lived for generations.


In July 2019, Jacob was appointed Leader of the House of Commons and Lord President of the Council. The Leader of the House is responsible for arranging Government business in the House of Commons. The Lord President is responsible for presiding over meetings of the Privy Council, presenting business for the monarch's approval. Jacob has previously been a Member of the Exiting the European Union Committee, the Treasury Select Committee, the Procedure Committee and the European Scrutiny Committee.


Jacob was educated at Eton before reading History at Trinity College Oxford, he then moved into finance being based in Hong Kong and later moving back to London. He set up his own company in 2007 with a group of Partners; it is called Somerset Capital Management and specialises in investment management in global emerging markets for institutional clients.


Jacob lives in West Harptree with his wife Helena and their six young children: Peter, Mary, Thomas, Anselm, Alfred and Sixtus. He is a cricket enthusiast and has supported Somerset County Cricket Club since he was a child.

Rt Hon Ruth Kelly

Rt. Hon. Ruth Kelly has had a career spanning politics, business and the public sector at the highest levels. During her time as the Member of Parliament for Bolton West (1997-2010), she became the youngest ever woman to serve in the UK Cabinet, holding a number of positions, including Secretary of State for Transport, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government andSecretary of State for Education and Skills.


Following her departure from political life, Ruth has taken on a number of executive and non-executive roles. Ruth is currently Non-Executive Board member of Heathrow Airport and a member of the Vatican’s Council for the Economy. She has previously held non-executive directorships with the National Grid and at the Financial Conduct Authority, where she was Chair of their Audit Committee.


Ruth’s recent executive career has included five years as Pro-Vice Chancellor at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, before which she was a Managing Director at HSBC Global Asset Management.

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Rt Rev Bishop Philip Egan
Bishop of Portsmouth

Bishop Philip Egan is the eighth Bishop of Portsmouth. A graduate of the University of London (King’s College), he undertook his formation for the priesthood at Allen Hall, London and the Venerable English College, Rome. He was awarded his Licentiate in Sacred Theology (STL) from the Pontifical Gregorian University and later, gained a doctorate in theology (PhD) from the University of Birmingham. Bishop Philip was ordained to the sacred priesthood in August 1984 and served as an Assistant Priest at St. Anthony’s, Woodhouse Park (1985-8). He became assistant chaplain at Fisher House to the University of Cambridge from 1988-1991 and afterwards was appointed Chaplain to Arrowe Park Hospital, Wirral (1991-4). He then undertook further studies at Boston College, Ma. For twelve years, he was on the formation staff of St. Mary’s College, Oscott, the major seminary in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, where he was the College’s Dean of Studies and Professor of Fundamental Theology. He returned to Boston College in 2007 as a post-doctoral research fellow of the Lonergan Institute, before being appointed Parish Priest of Our Lady and St. Christopher’s, Romiley, near Stockport in 2008. On 24th September 2012, he was ordained Bishop of Portsmouth.


He is frequently invited to speak at theological symposia and has regularly contributed to theological journals and religious magazines. He has written about the thought of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman and the great twentieth-century Jesuit philosopher Bernard Lonergan SJ and is the author of (Collegeville).

Lord David Alton

For 18 years, from 1979, David Alton was a Member of the House of Commons and in 1997 was appointed as an Independent Crossbench Member of the House of Lords. While still a student he was elected as a City Councillor for an inner city Liverpool Ward.Married, with four children, he is author of eleven books. Lord Alton is a visiting professor at Liverpool Hope University and formerly Professor of Citizenship at Liverpool John Moores University.


A co-founder of Jubilee Campaign; a recipient of the Thomas More Award for Religious Freedom; former Board Member of Aid to the Church in Need; in 2021 he received the Westminster Award for Human Rights, Human Life, and Human Dignity.He is co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) on North Korea, Eritrea, and Pakistan Minorities, and Vice chair of the APPGs on Uyghurs, Hong Kong and Freedom of Religion or Belief. He is a member of the House of Lords International Relations and Defence Select Committee. 


In 2021 he was sanctioned by the Chinese Communist Party following his successful legislative campaign on genocide determination.   


In Parliament he has particularly campaigned for the sanctity of human life, human rights, and religious freedom.His motto on his Coat of Arms is taken from the Book of Deuteronomy: “”Full biography at

Dr Mary Sutton

Mary Sutton’s doctoral research explored how refugees and other migrants found support and solidarity within church communities at a time when the UK government was overtly pursuing a policy.In other unpublished research, Mary Sutton considered the comparative histories of sanctuary in the UK and the USA.


Prior to her research, Mary Sutton led a local church community for many years and worked within the charity sector.Following her doctoral research Mary Sutton worked an outreach project where the stories of those with lived experience of the UK asylum process are shared.The Refugee Tales project has published four books.

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George O'Neill

George leads the Cardinal Hume Centre that works to tackle youth and family homelessness.  Based in Westminster, it supports homeless young people, homeless and badly housed families and people from the community with little or no income. It  helps people identify the skills, tools and confidence to break out of poverty and build better lives. Last year it helped more than 1100 people.

George’s background is in communications.  He has held senior advisory and leadership roles in the homelessness sector, higher education and Government, where as a Senior Civil Servant he was a Government press advisor and led Whitehall media teams.


Immediately before his time at the Cardinal Hume Centre, George joined L’Arche, the international federation for people with learning disabilities.  He led its community in London where he helped stabilise its finances, develop its focus and led a significant capital fundraising campaign.  He is passionate about leading collaborative and values led teams.

Mark Hoban

Mark Hoban was the Member of Parliament for Fareham between 2001 and 2015. During the Coalition Government, Mark was Financial Secretary to the Treasury between 2010 and 2012 and Minister for Employment between 2012 and 2013.

After leaving politics, Mark resumed his business career but he also has several pro bono roles in education as well as being chair of his parish finance committee. Mark and his wife Fiona live in Locks Heath and are parishioners at St Margaret Mary in Park Gate.

Dr Elizabeth Slinn

Dr Elizabeth Slinn, Visiting Fellow, University of Winchester UK is an active member of the St Peters and Winchester Martyrs parish in Hampshire and the Diocese of Portsmouth. Both Diocese and parish are working enthusiastically on plans to respond to the challenge of Liz completed her Doctorate in Theology and Practice at the University of Winchester last year, researching the Christian healing ministry and its development through practice.


Her interest in Climate change and care of the planet comes from living with her husband and daughter who are respectively,enthusiastically and academically interest in the subject, and regularly rehearse whether the solution to climate change is through political or local (Parish) action.

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Rev Dr David Goodill

Fr David Goodill teaches moral theology for Blackfriars Studium and the University of St Joseph, Macau. He also taught seminarians for several years at St Mary’s College, Oscott, including a course on Catholic Social Teaching. He has a doctorate from the University of Fribourg, Switzerland in Moral theology, and also studied at the Catholic University of Leuven, the University of Manchester and the University of Cambridge. His research centres on the dialogue between contemporary philosophy and moral theology, and on questions in fundamental moral theology. Fr Goodill has previously held the posts of bursar, vice-regent and acting regent of Blackfriars Hall. He is currently the Provincial Bursar for the English Dominicans.

Our Workshops

1. Religion or politics in immigration: possibilities and limitations of hospitality towards strangers (Dr Mary Sutton)


The desperate flight of people from Afghanistan which followed the fall of Kabul to the Taliban has highlighted again the stark reality of the lived experience of refugees.  As hard as it will be for these refugees to adjust to the trauma of leaving everything they know and love behind, and to make a new life in the UK, they have benefitted - at least in the immediate - from the sanction of the UK government, a relatively sympathetic media, and public support including churches.  Sadly, this is not the whole story of immigration to the UK.  Others face hostility, incarceration, destitution, and complicated and drawn-out processes of asylum.  This workshop considers the possibilities and limitations of the religious call to practice hospitality towards strangers when it is the State that decides who is welcome to the UK and who is not, and legislates asylum policies and procedures that are often guided by hostile environment ideologies.


2. Can you solve homelessness? (George O’Neill)

Is there really a solution to homelessness in the UK?  In a world of housing shortage, increasing housing costs and growing poverty,  is homelessness inevitable and might it be better for the Church to put its resources elsewhere? George O’Neill the Chief Executive of the Cardinal Hume Centre, will explore the issues, discuss some of the implications and lessons from the pandemic and help participants to reflect on what the distinct response of the church might be.  He will argue that while homelessness might be predictable, it need not be inevitable and part of the solution might be found in the very roots of the social teachings of the Church. 

3. Diversity and the New Puritanism (Lord David Alton)

A wave of illiberalism has left little space for conscience in politics. Driving people with a religious faith out of politics creates a less respectful, less diverse, and less tolerant society. It shows immense ignorance of the contribution which religious faith has made to national life. It may also morph from subtle discrimination into outright persecution and worse. So, how are we best placed to resist these trends and to have faith in politics?

4. Faith on the front line of politics (Mark Hoban)

In this workshop, Mark will be reflecting on the challenges reconciling faith and politics in his time as an MP. This will cover his constituency work, voting on conflicts in  Iraq, Libya and Syria as well as on conscience issues. Mark will also discuss his work as a minister at DWP on welfare reform.  


5. Climate Change: Big politics or Parish action? How do we respond to Laudato Si? (Dr Elizabeth Slinn)


How should we respond to the challenged in Laudato Si”? Do people of faith have particular responsibility to take action and if so, what can we do at Parish/local community level? Or is it all about politics and political pressure on producers of what we consume and how we live? Participants are advised to read Laudato Si’ which can be found at


6. What is Catholic Social Teaching?  (Rev. Dr. David Goodill op)

In the workshop on Catholic Social Teaching I will begin by showing its foundations in Scripture, before looking a some key developments and in particular . I will draw attention to the wide issues covered by Catholic Social Teaching and how it responds to new social developments. Finally, I will examine briefly some of the key concepts employed in contemporary Catholic Social Teaching, such as the common good and subsidiarity.