A PUBLIC PRINT, I'm not sure which one, has reported that the Marquess of Bristol, who is a rich man with land to his name, has just bought three thrones.
One of his ancestors was the fourth Earl of Bristol, an 18th century Anglican Bishop of Derry who travell ed and shopped in Europe so assiduously and splendidly that he left a long trail of Hotel Bristols behind him. He was also kind to Catholics, even in Ireland.
The thrones are described as being "gilt and red silk pieces." And they "come from the Westminster home of Cardinal Basil Hume, head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales,"
And please do not send your corrections to me. I merely perpetuate someone else's error.
Anyway, there is a throneroom in Archbishop's House at Westminster which used to have five gorgeous and frightful armchairs on a graduated dais, They have looked brand new for years. They are of heavy rococo design, huge and uncomfortable, with curling dec .:•: -ations based on plant forms but so heavy and elaborate that, if alive, they would not only enclose but throttle Sleeping Beauty.
Such throne-rooms tend to occur in the official residences of Metropolitans. There is, or was, one with a Chair of State under a canopy in the home of the Archbishop of New York behind St Patrick's Cathedral.
The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem has a stone throne of impressive discomfort in his otherwise reasonably humble home.
I have no idea what these ceremonial rooms are for, and I have never seen anyone sit on the chairs except one. Cardinal Heenan held a formal meeting with the Orthodox hierarchy in England in his throne-room, and the speakers were perched on these fantastic man-traps.
Their seats were simply too wide and too long and too high for the human fundament and legs. As a participant I was sat at the end of this noble line-up and faced the roomful of slightly suspicious prelates. Still, cardinals in England get their official photographs taken in and on these objects. I presume it is three of these which were found superfluous. It was not said how much Lord Bristol paid, but I hope that His Eminence got a good price. When asked if he and his Marchioness intended to sit on his new thrones, the Marquess is reported to have made a testy
e'eue3ti. Greater Londe:: Coon cil member for Tower Hamlets, Stepney end Poplar. was mach a Knight Commander of St Gregory last Friday. The award was bestowed on Mr Branagan by Pope Paui for his distirejuished work in Church and civic affairs, and was presorted by Cardinal Hume at Archbishop's House. Westminster.
answer: "I am not saying whether we will or not". Which was a perfectly proper reply to an impertinent question.
A Masterpiece in Dorset
IN HOLY WEEK at Lulworth. they still hold the Stations of the Cross through the village. The police hold up the bewildered holiday traffic,
Young men of the parish help to herd the local Catholics out of the contemporary dangers. The first Station is at the old dower house of the Weld family and the last, past the terribly empty shell of the burnt-out castle, is at the church.
I saw this church for the first time recently, and it is one of the finest things in England. It has long been believed that George HI, who made a visit there from Weymouth when he was recovering from his first bout of madness, told Mr Thomas Weld: "Build a family mausoleum and you can furnish the inside as a Catholic chapel if you wish." That visit was in 1789, three years after the foundation stone had been laid. It was the first new free-standing church in the country. The magnificent church at Arundel is a little older but is built into the house.
The church at Lulworth consists of four interlocking circles surmounted by a dome. It stands in the castle park, quite alone. • •
Catholic ancestors were removed from the Anglican parish church, which is also in the park, and buried in the new vaults. he building is uncluttered, full of the sun and the shadows of trees. It is positively light-hearted.
It was built at a time when a man at the door of the church checked the identity of Mass attenders. When Mass started, the doors were locked. Mass was referred to as "prayers". As was the custom, the altar came from Rome. It took many years to make, a Jesuit, Fr Thorpe, acting as agent on the spot. Exact and very worldly instructions were sent on how to get it through the customs.
It is a startling and most unEnglish piece of mannerist baroque with six elaborate gilt candlesticks and a towering, tortured crucifix. It is like a small controlled explosion in this very English buildinj. In fact its furnishings were made by an ex-soldier from the Pope's service. He had been a journeyman in a shop near the Jesuit church in Rome, the Gesu. Ile made brass plates for coach harness. He had a genius, and this commission raised him from squalor to comfort. The combination of cool superb English church and hot Italian altar is as surprising as it is superb.
In this Church of St Mary, the American priest John Carroll was ordained the lirst Catholic bishop of the United States. His See was Baltimore and this is still the premier See in that country. That was in August, 1790, Carroll was a great man, and did more than any other to establish the Church in the newly sovereign country. He was English-educated, but entirely approved the Revolution on conservative Magna Cartary grounds.
New York Catholics
YORKVILLE is not typical of the United States. It is an expensive area of New York, on the East Side — between 59th and 96th Streets, if you want to be exact.
Its inhabitants tend to be middle-class "ethnics" who have made it, or young people who unconsciously use It as a mating area before moving to the suburbs for the sake of the children. These tend to be a promising elite of the upwardly mobile.
The district is well stocked with bars, restaurants, art galleries and snob movie hoses.' It also has 14 Catholic parishes with 54,000 Catholics.
Of these, 33 per cent practise their religion, while the national average is 54 per cent. They are not a typical bunch, but they are of a sort who should concern the Church. They are leaving in increasing numbers.
So the archdiocese of New York got a couple of experts to conduct a survey, Their report, called "Catholic Life in New Yorkville," has been published by the Office of Pastoral Research for the archdiocese.
Their basic discovery is that people stop practising their religion not because they object to the moral teaching of the Church — for instance, Hurnanae Vitae, or to changes in the liturgy, but because they cease to believe in the basic mysteries of faith.
They found that 50 per cent of "non-attenders" did not believe in Jesus as the Son of God: 91 per cent of attenders did.
About 57 per cent of nonattenders did not believe the Sacraments to be occasions of union with God: 97 per cent of attenders did,
Some 57 per cent of nonattenders did not believe in the Resurrection: 97 per cent of attenders did.
More than 52 per cent of churchgoers believed premarital sex to be wrong, and 63 per cent that abortion was immoral.
Out of the 70 priests in the area, 37 completed and returned their questionnaires, A total of 62 per cent found their parish liturgies uninspiring: 62 per cent felt a lack of leadership. and 51 per cent felt they were unaware of the problems of the laity.
However, even the nonattending laity seemed glad to have been surveyed, and many still longed for what conviction offered. They did not seem to know much about what their religion taught. One of the more obviously and upwardly mobile wrote: "I wish I believed in God, because I think that throughout the centuries, the people with the most profound sense of reality believed in Him."
Orthodox prepare for a council
THE ORTHODOX Churches are quietly making ready for a Pan-Orthodox Council to be held in about two years' time.
It does not pretend to be an Ecumenical Council — one which embraces the whole Christian world. That they consider impossible as long as the Patriarch of the West, the Pope, who is first in honour but not in jurisdiction in the Christian Church, is not in communion.
These synods are held from time to time. They tend nut to be very decisive. There is no central authority, no final court of appeal, no person or body which can define or order anything, and this looseness has persisted since the Western and Eastern Church flew apart in a clap of rage in 1054. The fact that the Orthodox Church has not only lived on but powerfully survived a history as sad as that of the human race is a majestic argument for the efficacy of the Holy Spiritual. Their senior prelate is the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. His backyard used to be the best part of the Byzantine Empire and his cathedral, that of the Holy Wisdom in Constantinople, the most splendid in Christendom. Now he has a house in a mean part of Istanbul, the Phanar, and a metropolitan church the size of a chapel. His authority is effectively limited to the few Orthodox left in Turkey, the monks on Athos and some of the overseas churches. He has no authority over the Patriarchs of Moscow, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, though he comes first in precedence and honour. I.ast November he called a conference in Geneva to prepare an agenda. This turned out to be about as impressive as the outline of subjects which preceded the Second Vatican Council.
The Orthodox are down to discuss such matters as the possibility of celebrating Easter on the same day as other Christians, the state of Orthodoxy in non-Orthodox countries, the way in which one of these churches may claim independence from its Mother Church, the presedence of these several independent Churches 'and Patriarchs, the relationship of Orthodoxy with other Christian bodies and with the ecumenical movement. So the agenda includes everything or nothing.
In the past, such synods have, like some of the Councils of the Church, proved divisive rather than healing. And how could they be anything else with so many of the component Churches the victims of widely differing systems and caught up in national identities?
At the Pan-Orthodox Synod of 1924, the Churches of Greece, Romania, Syria and Finland accepted the New Calendar for all feasts except Easter and those days dependent on it. This New Calendar was promulgated by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 as a scientific correction to the basic calendar established before the birth of Christ by Julius Caesar. So the Russian and Serbian Churches are 13 days behind Greece and the West in most of their feasts.
There is no powerful move to make peace with Rome or to allow anyone else full communion with Orthodoxy. The Great Schism is not about to close. But all such reappraisals, even if painful, are educative and therefore in theory useful. They also invite the intervention of the Divine..
Where sinners are saints
THE CHURCH at Wasdale Head in West Cumbria is said to have been without a name for 500 years. They have, however, recently dedicated it to the Norwegian Saint Olaf.
They chose St Olaf because of the strong local memory of Viking invasion. Some of the local people proudly claim Viking descent, and at Gosforth church close by are a couple of Viking tombstones and a 10th century carved cross with pagan and Chriftian legends depicted on it. The church was recently dedicated by the Anglican Bishop of Carlisle, Dr David Halsey. The little church was crowded for its first confirmation service and the Bishop told them that their new patron was no "do-gooder' or plaster-cast holy man. He had been a soldier and was killed in battle in 1080.
"Some of the things he did would have shocked some people," he said. And with that, he confirmed twO parishioners, took off his mitre and went home.