CONGRATULATIONS to Holy Apostles Church, Pimlico — and its parish priest, Fr Alastair Russell — on its thirtieth anniversary.
"Our red brick complex of Church, house and hall," says Fr Russell, "is a false tooth in the orderly Georgian splendour of Winchester and Cumberland Streets, but in our case it is a beautiful false tooth especially when viewed from Cumberland Street."
The original church — dating from 1917 and originally a Wesleyan Chapel — was bombed in April 1941. Some Franciscan Missionaries of Mary had been sheltering in the porch, but were unhurt.
The parish priest of the day, Fr Edmund Hadfield, clambered through the smoking debris to rescue the Blessed Sacrament. He carried the ciborium through the blackout, and continued bombing, to Westminster Cathedral.
This parish priest became, as Canon Hadfield, a household name in Pimlico. After the bombing another damaged site, 33 Warwick Square, was made serviceable as a temporary church. When the war was over, a pre-fab hut, however inadequate, had to make do on the original Claverton Street site, as an interim parish church. The site was subsequently requisitioned to make way for the Churchill Gardens Estate, so an alternative site had to be found if a new church was to be built.
It was at that time thought that the parish boundaries of the Cathedral and St Mary's, Cadogan Street could be extended to make a new church in Pimlico unnecessary. But Fr Hadfield disagreed vehemently. He bicycled around by night tossing Miraculous Medals into bombed sites, one of which was eventually bought, to become the home of today's imposing and flourishing church.
Mr Balfour's plan
PRESIDENT Chaim Herzog of Israel was eloquent and as persuasive as possible when, during his visit to London, he put the best interpretation possible on the very recent worrying troubles in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
His visit almost exactly coincided with the anniversary of four key events in the evolution of Israel.. 70 years ago, Arthur Balfour, then British Foreign Secretary, wrote a short but famous letter to Lord (Lionel) Rothschild, a prominent Jewish leader. The letter conveyed British support for the Zionist aspirations, reporting that His Majesty's Government viewed "with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people" without prejudice to the "civil and religious rights of existing nonJewish communities in Palestine."
The latter had also been promised a "home" in the area, and there was great confusion as to what was to belong to whom when and if the time ever came to carve up the land.
It was not until 27 years after the Balfour Declaration that a Partition Plan calling for a Jewish (and a separate Arab) state was adpoted by the United Nations General Assembly. The plan was accepted by the Zionists but rejected by the Palestine Arab and Arab States leaders. This led to the 1948 "War of Independence," and birth of Israel on May 15, 1948.
Twenty years later the famous Resolution 242 was adopted by the Security Council of the United Nations. It offered a general framework, based on mutual concessions, and was accepted by Israel and Arab countries for settling the conflict. It is seen to this day as a basis for a future peace formula. But it was rejected by the PLO.
Finally, ten years ago, President Sadat of Egypt ended Israel's isolation and visited the country. This led to the first peace treaty between the Jewish and an Arab state. The end of 1987 has seen the anniversary of all four events. But the bitterness and fighting go on . . .
NEW horizons have been reached by Westminster's historic Catholic Children's Society, founded in 1859 as the Crusade of Rescue.
Recent development's and ideas in the field of child care have compelled the Society, in the words of its latest report, "to accelerate the pace of change, to ensure that our Society maintains its rightful place amongst the leaders in the field."
The Society has begun recently to tackle the issue of child abuse and it intends to respond to this growing problem in its usual professional way on behalf of the Catholic community, now larger than ever, which it serves.
The traditional work of adoption and fostering goes on and there has been an expansion of the Family Placement Department. Particular attention has been paid to supplying a much-needed service for Catholic children in local authority care, physically handicapped youngsters and sibling groups.
A highlight of the Society's year was a day in early June when the St Francis Family Centre at Poplar — which had featured in a memorable nationwide TV broadcast on Christmas Eve 1986 — was officially opened by This centre is the focus for vigorous activity on behalf of the Catholic community in a comparatively deprived area of London. How proud would the late Bishop Craven have been of the Society as it thrives today. For it was he who did so much to build it up in the difficult years during and after the war.
Congratulations to Anthony Meredith on so successful a first year (and more) as the Society's Director.
ON Holy Innocents Day, December 28, members of Christian CND will be taking part in services and vigils at civil defence sites and nuclear installations. The idea is to remember, on the day recalling the legendary infant victims of Herod, all the innocent victims of violence and to recall that, as is now recognised by the great powers, "the innocent are at risk" in our nuclear age.
One action will take place at the government bunker at Corsham near Bath. This is the site that will be the base for central government in the event of nuclear war.
Closely allied to Christian CND is Pax Christi which, on February 17 next (Ash Wednesday) will be repeating this year's co-ordinated actions of civil disobedience at the Ministry of Defence. Demonstrations will occur in Whitehall, Liverpool, Newcastle and Glasgow.
Not everyone's cup of tea of course but two Anglican and one Catholic bishop gave active support last time. After a service of repentance, as on the previous occasion, a number of people will scatter ashes and mark the MoD buildings with charcoal to signify the need to turn away if possible from a reliance on nuclear weapons.
Five Anglican bishops have already expressed interest, and Bishop Tony Dumper of Dudley hopes to attend the ecumenical service of prayer and repentence at St George's Cathedral, Southwark.
Naturally the activists hope to be arrested for daubing the government buildings. 45 of them were arrested last time around.
Signed God SJ
WE all know the story of what happened when the Dominican— Jesuit conflict on efficacious grace, free will, etc., was at its height. A leading Dominican expressed the wish for some sign from heaven as to who was in the right. A Jesuit visionary promptly reported seeing a message in the sky saying "This undignified contest must stop (signed) God, SJ".
Since the Crockford's sensation, many things have been said that might otherwise remain unsaid. Will heaven act? For do not suppose that frail mortals have abandoned their belief in heavenly signs.
Do you remember, not so long ago, when the Bishop of Durham preached a particularly controversial sermon in York Minster? I think one of his points was that God might be a woman.
A few days later the Minster was struck by lightning and extensively damaged by fire. Many vowed that it was God's anger.
Such avowals were, of course, fairly -common in the past. In 1239 the canons of Lincoln were on very bad terms with their bishop, the great reformer Grosseteste. One of them, it is said, was preaching a sermon attacking the good Bishop and declaring "were we silent the very stones would cry out for us."
The cathedral tower promptly crashed down killing three monks and seriously injuring several others. Such incidents were more frequent in those days, and there were many near accidents. The slow opening of cracks gave warning of danger before actual disaster struck. An evensong prayer ended with the words, "deare Lord support our roof this night, that it may in no wise fall upon us and sty& us, Amen."
SIR John Jonston retired recently as Comptroller of the Lord Chamberlain's office.
Abbot Basil Hume, as he then was, was staying with him at Windsor when the news came through that he had been appointed Archbishop of Westminster.
Sir John has been in Royal employ for nearly a quarter of a century. For the first four years, until the law was changed in 1968, one of his jobs was to vet all stage productions. Occasionally he banned their performance, as in the case of Mrs Wilson's Diary.
The Queen has given him permission to delve into the archives of his office in order to write the definitive book about theatre censorship in this country. It should be fascinating.
I have done much research myself before now in the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle, housed as they are at the top of the Round Tower. It was all excellently organised and one could look out from this Medieval fortress, completed by Edward III, with a feeling of total timelessness.
Before starting on his censorship book, Sir John has been asked to oversee the rewiring of the entire Castle, What a busy retirement.
A very Happy Christmas to all readers if (as Jim Lees-Milne used to say) you have got this far.