LONDON (EWTN News/CNA) — Widespread rioting across England has been condemned by the country’s most senior Catholic cleric.

“The scenes of the last few nights in parts of London and elsewhere are shocking. The criminal violence and theft that have been witnessed are to be condemned,” said Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster in a statement Aug. 9. 

“They are a callous disregard for the common good of our society and show how easily basic principles of respect and honesty are cast aside.”

Archbishop Nichols’ comments come as numerous English towns and cities begin a clean up after another night of rioting, looting and arson. London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Nottingham and Bristol are among the areas most affected by the extreme disorder. There will be more than 16,000 police officers on the streets of London in anticipation of another night of trouble. 

“We will do everything necessary to restore order to Britain’s streets and make them safe for the law-abiding,” said Prime Minister David Cameron, who cut short his vacation in Italy to return to London. Parliament has also been recalled from its summer break.

“In the face of these difficulties, a forthright common effort is needed to ensure that these times bring out the best in our society and not the worst,” said Archbishop Nichols.

“I am sure that, as Catholic citizens, we shall play our part with clear principles for living, both as individuals and as a society, with honesty, compassion and prayer.”

“May God grant us courage and determination to shape our lives with dignity, self-respect and care for the common good,” concluded the archbishop, asking for prayers for those affected by the violence and for “those whose parents are worried about the behavior of their youngsters, and for those who, at this time, are being tempted into the ways of violence and theft.”

One of the worst affected areas has been Croydon in south London, where police are treating the fatal shooting of a 26-year-old man as murder. Meanwhile, numerous local businesses have been looted and set ablaze by gangs of youths.

“It’s incredibly sad,” said Provost Joseph Collins, the parish priest of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Croydon, to EWTN News Aug. 9.

“The store where I buy my furniture — a family firm that’s been in this area for generations — was simply burned to the ground. There doesn’t seem to be any concern that somebody could get killed.”

“And it’s not just the vandalism and torching; it’s the looting, too. Youngsters just smashing into shops and stealing whatever they want. It’s awful.”

Provost Collins says one of his fellow priests was out in the community Aug. 8 and was shocked by just how young the rioters were.

“Some people say the recession is to blame, but these children are too young to even know what ‘a recession’ is.”

Instead, Provost Collins says a breakdown in family life is a key factor which has led to many youths, particularly boys, into a culture of gangs and violence. In fact, he has recently been exploring the possibility of the parish providing parenting classes for the local community.

“Sadly, many parents are finding it difficult to control their children, and some don’t even seem to want to.”