The passion and hatred that religion generates
A NEW MP took his seat just after last week's opening of Parliament and was duly shown the spot on which Spencer Perceval was assassinated in 1812. It seems surprising, at first sight, that Perceval was the only Prime Minister to have met a violent death, whereas that fate befell no leis than five Archbishops of Canterbury and nine Archbishops of York.
There have admittedly been many more Primates than Premiers, but it may still be an indication that religion generates more passion, sometimes hatred, even than politics.
The first Archbishop of Canterbury to be murdered was Alphedge in 1012, at the hands of the Danes. Among the most famous of later victims were Thomas Becket (1170) and Thomas Cranmer (1556). The latter, before expiring, made the famous gesture of thrusting his right hand into the flames since with this hand he had signed the recantation of which he later repented.
Among Archbishops of York to be murdered was William FitzHerbert who met his end in 1164. Ironically, his enemies were led by the all-powerful St Bernard of Clairvaux who persuaded Pope Engenius III first to suspend and then to depose the Archbishop. There is little doubt that his death came about by drinking from a chalice poisoned by the Minster's Archdeacon, Osbert.
But Edward was thought to have wrought a miracle by ensuring, through his prayers, that no lives were lost when many fell from a collapsing bridge over the River Ouse. When he was canonised by Pope Honorious III in 1227, a chapel rose on the new bridge over the Ouse at the point of the alleged miracle.
Tales of other murdered Primates are well told by A Tindal Hart of St Barnabas College, Lingfield, in an excellent booklet recently published by William Sessions at The Ebor Press in York.
MOLOTOV's recent death produced a quandary in Russian official circles. Should he be remembered as a hero or as a villain?
The dilemma highlights the changing scene in the Soviet Union today which has seen marginal gains of influence and prestige on the part of the Russian Orthodox Church. Patriarch Pimen of Moscow, about whom I have written before, is said to have been given the go-ahead by the Soviet government to invite the Pope to Russia next year.
It is not impossible that Pope Paul will thus attend ceremonies bringing together representatives of different Christian churches between June 6 and June 19 next year.
The Pope has often expressed a hope that he would one day visit Russia. He would incur the wrath of such Russia-hating Catholics as those from the Ukraine. But the idea that the Pope should attend a ceremony involving dialogue with other Church leaders has great appeal. The time may well have come to an end when Papal journeys will be solo affairs with an accent on populist-triumphalism.
The Pope is anxious to learn as well as merely to preach. He would learn a lot from a visit to Russia involving detailed dialogue with other world churchmen. Let's hope the visit, against all odds, may somehow come off.
1986 sees the 300th anniversary of the setting up of the first Catholic parish in London after the Reformation. This was St Mary, Moorfields, originally in Lime Street, EC4. After many vicissitudes and disturbances its ultimate replacement was the present church in Eldon Street.
For many years St Mary, Moorfields, was the mother church of a certain Chapel of ease — a "hidden gem" tucked. away in Lamb's Passage. This was to become known later as the church of St Joseph, Bunhill Row. It has a very romantic history, now told in detail for the first time by Brother John Ogilvie, FMS, a Marist brother attached to the present church.
In the middle of the last century there were some 6000 Catholics living in this area, now overshadowed by the Barbican. Today there are only a couple of hundred. But, as Brother John puts it, in his own highly individual style, "the location of St Joseph's in Lamb's Passage is becoming better known in the area and a growing number of people come to daily lunch time Mass from the offices, market and shops nearby .. . St Joseph's is an inner-city oasis of peace, prayerfulness and Eucharistic presence, and contributes in an unobtrusive. way to the upbuilding of the faith . . . Many visitors who come to the church from outwith the area often remark how welcome they feel in this lightsome church below street level hidden away in Lamb's Passage."
It's a hard life
WHAT A good choice Lord McCluskey has turned out to be as deliverer of this year's Reith lectures. That he is, as far as I know, the first Catholic to have done so, is incidental. More importantly, he is the first judge (apart from being the first Scotsman) to give these lectures, since it has not been a tradition that serving judges should give public talks.
There was thus a hitch in 1985 when Lord McClusky, having been invited to give that year's lectures, was elevated to the Scottish Bench. But this year saw a breakthrough with the Judge receiving, and accepting, a follow-up invitation.
He was pleased to have the chance to give his ideas about the judiciary, which are original and refreshing. In fact he has strong views on what judges should and should not do.
Judges, "he feels, are good at deciding what we call justiciable issues. What judges should not be asked is to adjudicate on things like miners' pay or the siting of airports or nuclear power stations. These are policy issues for which they have no special gifts."
A modest and defensible point of view. Let us hope it will influence subsequent choices as to who should head enquiries. The judges have a hard enough job as it is, for which they often receive bitter criticism to which they are virtually unable to reply.
Spirit of suffering
THERE HAVE been widespread reports that the spirit of Remembrance Sunday did not come to life in countless Catholic parishes in England and Wales. The readings for what would otherwise have been the 32nd Sunday of the year particularly lent themselves to the theme of the resurrection of the dead.
November, moreover, is dedicated to praying for the dead. The Catholic Church prides itself in its care for what was once called the "Church Suffering." Above all, everyone going to Mass on November 9 last expected to be asked to be reminded of the obvious theme of the day.
Very many were surprised to find that the Sunday in question was devoted instead to celebrating the Dedication of the Basilica of St John Lateran. An admirable commemoration no doubt — on any other Sunday of the year.
One irate rea.derreported_that
tri-s blood pressure had noticeably gone up as a result of insufficient attention to Remembrance Sunday at his local Catholic parish. He even went to the point of investigating what had happened in other parishes, only to discover that Remembrance Sunday, as such, did not figure
strongly in the worship for the day.
Particularly irksome was the jettisoning of the original readings which would have produced an ideal theme for commemorating the dead had it not been for the inexplicable substitution of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica.
The same enraged reader, though admitting that he was being carried away by anger, asked "Are we to expect an extension of such insensitivity? Will we have some feast next year dedicated to some other building thought by the Vatican to be of 'divine' importance such as the Banco Ambrosiano? Are we to expect a Feast of Peter's Pence, with plenary indulgences available on credit cards?"
An extreme reaction no doubt. But perhaps understandable in the heat of the moment.
All the more reason for being thankful for those parishes which joined up with neighbouring non-Catholic churches for a joint service.
But the central question remains: Why choose Remembrance Sunday to remember the principal Papal Basilica in Rome? It is something our Anglican and other Christian brethren in Britain could never possibly understand.
I HAVE further news regarding the recent very successful exhibition at the Westminster Cathedral Galleries of the works of Antonio Ciccone. The exhibition will next be on view at Liverpool Cathedral, from November 21 until December 14.
The new Padre Pio Centre, which I mentioned as being a possible result of the profit made by the exhibition, is distinct from any other existing organisation connected with Padre Pio. If actually founded it will provide, somewhere in London, a room devoted to Padre Pio to inform people about his life and work; a room where the set of Ciccone drawings of Padre Pio would be on permanent display; a shop for the sale of artists and craftsmen registered with the Countryside Workshops Charitable Trust; and a gallery where Christian artists can show their work.
In the event of this enterprisenot being sufficiently funded, the money donated will be evenly distributed between The House for the Relief of Suffering at San Giovanni Rotundo; The Trealor College for Handicapped Children; The Irish School of Ecumenics; and The Passage, Westminster.