LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Britain formally left the European Union on Friday night, and Cardinal Vincent Nichols said it was “an opportunity to move beyond the divisions which have been evident at many levels in our society.”

The United Kingdom voted to leave the European bloc in June 2016, in a referendum. The tight 52-48 percent vote showed the divisions in British society, with the bitterness continuing throughout the 3 ½ year process that culminated in the formal severing of the relationship.

The Catholic bishops of England and Wales have remained neutral on the issue of Brexit, but have expressed concern over the rights of EU citizens living in the UK – most of whom come from a Catholic background – as well as issues such as rising xenophobia and the complex situation around the Irish border.

“It is important for everyone to renew a commitment to each other through everyday acts of kindness, being good neighbors, welcoming the stranger and caring for the most vulnerable in our society,” said Nichols, the archbishop of Westminster and president of the bishops’ conference.

“In these ways we contribute to the common good at every level of society, from national politics to individual generosity, particularly for those in greatest hardship and uncertainty. As Catholics, with all people of good will, we commit ourselves to playing our role in this endeavor,” the cardinal said.

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