The month began with the horrifying possibility that Catholic doctors could be stripped of their right to refuse to arrange abortions.
The idea was being proposed at the British Medical Association’s annual general meeting, although if approved it would not be legally binding unless adopted by a separate regulatory body, the General Medical Council. In the end, the proposal was amended and then defeated by a strong majority.
Meanwhile, a senior Anglican bishop urged the Pope and the hierarchy of England and Wales to help Anglo-Catholics convert to Rome.
His request followed the General Synod’s decision to ordain women bishops.
The Bishop of Ebbsfleet, the Rt Rev Andrew Burnham, called for “magnanimous gestures from our Catholic friends, especially from the Holy Father, who well understand our longing for unity, and from the hierarchy in England and Wales”, as he prepared to lead his flock out of the Church of England.
“Most of all we ask for ways that allow us to bring our folk with us,” he said.
Bishop Burnham, one of the “flying bishops” administering to Anglo-Catholics who could not in conscience accept women priests, said that codes of practice – the measures granted by the General Synod to traditionalists opposed to women bishops – were “shifting sands” and that “the sacramental life of the Church must be built on a rock”.
The General Synod had rejected amendments tabled by traditionalists which would have allowed them to have separate legal structures within the Church of England, safeguarding their consciences.
Instead a statutory code of practice with unspecified terms was pushed through.
Bishop Burnham had been discussing the reception of Anglo-Catholics into the Catholic Church with Cardinal William Levada, head of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Cardinal Walter Kasper, who heads the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
In Australia Pope Benedict proclaimed a “new age” of love at the final Mass of World Youth Day.
The Pope called on young pilgrims to be “the prophets of this new age, the messengers of his love, drawing people to the Father and building a future of hope for all humanity”.
Benedict XVI, who was addressing people from 170 countries, said the world and the Church needed renewal to counter a growing “spiritual desert” and called on young people to open their hearts to the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The grace of the Spirit cannot be merited or achieved, he said, but was something that had to be received as a pure gift and allowed to work from within.
He said: “God’s love can only unleash its power when it is allowed to change us from within. We have to let it break through the hard crust of our indifference, our weariness, our blind conformity to the spirit of this age. Only then can we let it ignite our imagination and shape our deepest desires.” During the homily he challenged young people, asking them what legacy they were leaving to the next generation.
He said: “Empowered by the Spirit and drawing upon faith’s rich vision, a new generation of Christians is being called to build a world in which God’s gift of life is welcomed, respected and cherished ... a new age in which love is not greedy or self-seeking but purely faithful and genuinely free, open to others, respectful of their dignity, seeking their good, radiating joy and beauty. A new age in which hope liberates us from the shallowness, apathy and self-absorption which deaden our souls and poison our relationship.” In the homily, the last of three major papal addresses which marked the celebrations, Pope Benedict built upon themes he had developed in the earlier speeches.
The Pope’s welcoming address at Barangaroo on July 17 began with environmental issues through the prism of God’s creation and man’s role in it, before addressing the scars that a culture of consumerism had made in the social environment. In the second address, during the Saturday vigil with a crowd of over 200,000 at Randwick Racecourse, the Pope discussed ways in which young people could become witnesses of Christ’s love.
Meanwhile, plans for Britain’s first ever church dedicated to celebrations of the traditional Latin Mass were abandoned after a rebellion by priests.
Archbishop Patrick Kelly of Liverpool had proposed to attach an ailing city centre church to the cathedral parish and reserve it for celebrations of Mass in the extraordinary form.
But the Council of Priests voted against the plan by 18 votes to two. In a letter that was read out to parishioners Archbishop Kelly said he had “decided not to go ahead with the change”.
The move disappointed traditionalists because the proposed church was considered “beautiful and appropriate” for Mass in the extraordinary form. The Church of St Vincent de Paul, St James Street, Toxteth, was designed by E W Pugin in 1856 and has not yet been re-ordered.
John Medlin, general manager of the Latin Mass Society, said the move was “very regrettable”. AUGUST
In Chile, the unexplained healings of two people from terminal illnesses raised the prospect of Britain having its first woman saint in more than four decades.
A man suffering from cancer and a woman with a brain injury from a fractured skull recovered from their conditions after their families prayed to Sister Elizabeth Prout, a 19th-century nun who worked with the poor in the slums of Manchester.
Their healings were to be investigated as possible miracles by Catholic officials travelling from England. The investigation could result in the Pope declaring Sister Elizabeth a saint in as little as five years time. Sister Elizabeth has been described as a Victorian Mother Teresa because of her work among poor mill
Catholics in England and Wales could be using the new version as early as 2010. The recognitio from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments came in a letter sent to the United States Bishops’ Conference and covered the central element of the Order of the Mass.
Cardinal Francis Arinze and Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith, the prefect and secretary of the Congregation, sent the letter to Bishop Arthur Serratelli, the chairman of the US bishops’ liturgy committee, announcing the decision.
The new translation is more faithful to the Latin of the Roman Missal and is seen as a victory for those unhappy with the current translation.
Although the letter was sent to the American bishops, it was understood that the recognitio applies to all members of ICEL, the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, which represents the 11 Englishspeaking bishops’ conferences.
No news, however, came from the bishops’ conference of England and Wales. It later emerged that the letter from the Vatican had arrived but, since Cardinal MurphyO’Connor was out of the country, no one had opened his mail.
In northern Italy Pope Benedict made revealing comments during a questionand-answer session with priests.
The Pope said he was once “more severe” than he was today regarding First Holy Communion and Confirmation for children who are unlikely to attend Sunday Mass after they receive the sacraments.
The Pope told priests in Bressanone-Brixen that as a young man he had refused to administer the sacraments to candidates who he did not believe would practise the faith. But he said he now believed that where there is even “a flicker of desire for communion in the faith” the sacraments should be administered.
Back home Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue of Lancaster put forward some extraordinary criticism of the direction of the Church in England and Wales.
In a 92-page document Bishop O’Donoghue said the English and Welsh Church was losing its Catholic identity.
The document, described by several parish priests as “dynamite”, addressed declining vocations, falling Mass attendance and the future of the Church.
The loss of Catholic identity stemmed from the rejection of Church teaching coupled with a widespread misinterpretation of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, the document said.
The bishop challenged both the laity and clergy to re-examine what it means to be Catholic and to return to the “sources of our Catholic identity”. Bishop O’Donoghue wrote: “I am convinced that if we are to wake from the weariness that is taking hold of the Church in this country we must return to the sources of our Catholic identity and mission to renew our strength and vitality.” The document, entitled Fit for Mission? Church came after Fit for Mission? Schools which called for stronger Catholic ethos in
diocesan schools and won high praise from the Vatican.
Meanwhile, Greyfriars Hall in Oxford closed despite an intervention by a top Vatican official to save it.
Cardinal Franc Rodé, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, wrote to Oxford University asking for a hold to be put on the imminent return of Greyfriars’ licence. But he was too late: the licence, he was informed, had already been given up. The month saw another round of church closures in Leeds: six churches and one deanery shut their doors in the Pontefract and Wakefield area of the diocese despite moving protests from parish
ioners. One priest, Fr Stephen Lawler, was suspended from his ministry for defying his bishop’s orders to stop celebrating Mass at St John the Evangelist Church in Allerton Bywater. SEPTEMBER
This month saw the start of some of the worst anti-Christian violence in recent years, with Hindu mobs murdering dozens of Christians and driving thousands of others from their homes in Orissa province.
At least 60 churches, many of them Catholic, and religious buildings were burned to the ground and thousands of homes destroyed.
Hindu mobs started attacking Christians in the Kand hamal region after Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, leader of the hard-line Hindu group Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), and four of his associates were assassinated last month.
The government attributed the killings to Maoist extremists and a senior Maoist leader later claimed responsibility. But Hindu activists in the region blamed Christians, with whom they have had a historically uneasy relationship. Conservative estimates suggested that some 6,000 people had fled to government-run refugee camps, with an estimated 5,000 more hiding in forests around Kandhamal. In one of the worst reported incidents, a lay Catholic in Tian
gia was ripped apart by a mob while two others were left so badly injured they later died from their wounds.
Catholics were not the only people who expressed outrage after birth control pioneer Marie Stopes, who advocated the sterilisation of the poor and mixedrace, was honoured on a stamp. The 20th-century Scottish eugenicist was one of six “women of distinction” to feature in a new series issued by the Royal Mail in the autumn. Stopes appeared on a 50p stamp alongside the suffragette Millicent Garrett Fawcett, politician Barbara Castle and the black civil rights activist Claudia Jones. The choice of Stopes was especially controversial as she is accused of being racist and anti-Semitic, and an admirer of Adolf Hitler.
In other depressing news, atheists, teachers and liberal religious groups formed a coalition attacking faith schools for being “divisive” and “discriminatory”.
Campaign group Accord, which was launched in September, claimed that schools which selected pupils and staff on religious grounds were harming community cohesion.
The group, which includes Anglican clergy, rabbis and atheists such as Philip Pullman, called on the Government to abolish selection on grounds of faith because of “the dangers of segregation”.
Accord’s proposals were strongly opposed by an alliance of religious figures representing the faith school sector. Oona Stannard, head of the Catholic Education Service in England and Wales, described the organisation’s claims as “spurious”.
In a landmark case a Catholic trainee doctor threatened with dismissal by his employers for refusing to violate his conscience over abortion referrals and contraception was vindicated.
With the help of the Thomas More Legal Centre the GP received confirmation from the General Medical Council (GMC) that he was acting according to professional medical rules and could not be dismissed or failed in his training for refusing to give abortion advice and prescribe contraceptives.
The doctor, from the south of England, contacted the Thomas More Legal Centre after he was pressured by his employers to refer patients requesting abortions to another doctor and prescribe the morning-after pill. His employer later reported him to the GMC for refusing to comply with the clinic’s demands, which could have led to his being struck off the medical register. Neil Addison, director of the legal centre, said: “He was being heavily pressurised to leave if he refused to change his stance and if he didn’t take their advice and leave quietly he would be failed.”
Visiting Lourdes during its anniversary year Pope Benedict XVI told pilgrims that the Sign of the Cross was a symbol of a love stronger than evil.
At the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes Pope Benedict said the Sign of the Cross that the Virgin Mary made to St Bernadette Soubirous was a symbol of faith which speaks of God’s love.
In his homily he said: “It tells us that there is a love in this world that is stronger than death, stronger than our weaknesses and sins. The power of love is stronger than the evil which threatens us.” Over 160,000 people were gathered for the Pontiff’s Mass on the rain-soaked La Prairie, a large meadow at the Marian shrine celebrating the 150th anniversary of the apparitions. Suffering pilgrims come to take to the waters at the shrine and pray for the Virgin’s intercession, hoping for cures. Benedict XVI said the Virgin Mary revealed the universality of God’s love for men in Lourdes. He said: “She invites all people of goodwill, all those who suffer in heart or body, to raise their eyes towards the Cross of Jesus so as to discover there the source of life, the source of salvation.”
There was good news with the announcement that the Diocese of Westminster had seen a rise in the number of seminarians at Allen Hall, its seminary.
Twelve men started their formation at the seminary in Chelsea, west London, bringing the number up to 43. This was an increase from 40 men training to be priests in 2007 and 37 the year before that. Three of the new intake came from the Neocatechumenal Way, a movement that has contributed greatly to vocations in the diocese in recent years.
With the Cause of Pius XII becoming a growing issue during 2008, Pope Benedict XVI launched an impassioned defence of his predecessor – in a move seen as a signal that the wartime pontiff may soon to be beatified.
Pius XII worked courageously, secretly and silently to save Jews targeted by the Nazis, Pope Benedict said.
“Wherever possible,” he said, Pope Pius “spared no effort in intervening in their favour” and in providing assistance to the Jews either directly or through Catholic religious institutes.
It was the first time a pope has defended Pius XII’s wartime record publicly. In May last year the Congregation for the Causes of Saints recommended that Pope Benedict formally declare Pope Pius Venerable, but Benedict XVI put the Cause on hold seven months later. OCTOBER
Ruth Kelly, having announced her resignation from the Cabinet, hit out at the secular atmosphere of English politics, claiming that it was difficult to be a Christian in Westminster.
She said there was a gulf between the fashionable secularism of Parliament and the ordinary religious beliefs of wider society. Her comments came just days after news of her resignation was leaked by an unknown source during the Labour Party conference.
She said: “It is difficult to be a Christian in politics these days. The public debate has become more secular and believers are portrayed as a bit odd.
“That doesn’t reflect the reality in communities, where churchgoing and belief is considered normal.” Miss Kelly insisted emphatically that she resigned to spend more time with her family, but some speculated that her departure was provoked by clashes with colleagues over the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Bill.
Also that week Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, became the first Primate of the Church of England to accept visions of the Virgin Mary at Lourdes as historical fact. In a homily in Lourdes on the Feast of Our Lady of Walsingham, Dr Williams implied that he believed visions of Our Lady experienced by St Bernadette Soubirous in 1858 were true. “When Mary came to Bernadette, she came at first as an anonymous figure, a beautiful lady, a mysterious ‘thing’, not yet identified as the Lord’s spotless mother,” he said.
Later that month plans to rebury Cardinal John Henry Newman were thrown into disarray after it was discovered that his body has disintegrated in its grave.
Undertakers attempted to exhume the body of the Victorian cardinal in preparation for his likely beatification.
Officials were hoping to transfer his remains from a small rural cemetery in Rednal, Worcestershire, to a marble sarcophagus in the Birmingham Oratory, Edgbaston, where he could be better venerated by pilgrims.
Plans had been announced for the cardinal to lie in state for three days in the expectation that thousands of people would come to pray before his coffin.
Specialists were planning to fly into Britain from Rome and Milan to take parts of the cardinal’s body back to the Vatican to be made holy relics. But when undertakers opened the cardinal’s grave they found none of his remains.
October was the worst month yet for Iraq Christians in five years of persecution, with thousands of Christians fleeing the country’s second-largest city after 13 people were murdered.
Around 4,000 Christians escaped Mosul in northern Iraq to neighbouring villages, creating a potential humanitarian nightmare as winter approached. Many left without any possessions after receiving written threats, and militants blew up at least three Christian homes after chasing out the owners. The Iraqi government sent 2,500 additional police to the city to protect churches. Aid workers said it was a desperate situation.
The victims included a father and son and a disabled man in his 20s. Most victims owned or worked in shops, suggesting a campaign to break the economic strength of the Assyrian Christian community.
The following week Aid to the Church in Need said that the persecution of Christians was on the increase around the world with some Christian minorities at risk of being “extinguished”.
The charity’s Index of Persecution document stated that persecution had worsened in 17 of 29 countries the group monitors since 2006, among them India, Iraq, Algeria and Egypt. The document was published on the day that a British Christian aid worker was murdered by the Taliban and in the month that up to 15,000 Iraqi Christians were forced to flee from Islamist gunmen in Mosul. About 100 people were also killed by mobs in Orissa, India.
The long-running debate over sex education intensified at the end of October when an agency of the bishops’ conference of England and Wales came out in favour of sex and relationship education in Catholic primary schools.
The Catholic Education Service (CES) welcomed Government plans to make Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) compulsory in all primary and secondary schools.
In a statement on October 23 the CES said it broadly supported the Government’s response to a review of SRE teaching. It also said Ministers had offered important assurances to the Catholic Church. NOVEMBER
This month the Vatican declared its approval for psychological screening of seminarians in the wake of damaging clerical abuse scandals. In a long-awaited document the Congregation for Catholic Education said seminary candidates should undergo psychological evaluations whenever there is a suspicion of personality disturbances or serious doubts about their ability to live a celibate life.
The document, entitled Guidelines for the Use of Psychology in the Admission and Formation of Candidates for the Priesthood, also endorsed tests to root out men with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” from seminaries. The statement echoed the language of a 2005 document which said candidates with deep-seated homosexual tendencies could not become seminarians.
Despite the disintegration of Cardinal Newman’s body a Mass was celebrated in Birmingham to mark the return of relics to the Oratory church that he founded.
Hundreds of people packed into the Birmingham Oratory to watch through clouds of incense as Newman’s relics were carried into the church.
Among the relics contained in the casket were objects found when the cardinal’s grave was dug up last month, including a coffin handle, a brass nameplate and a brass representation of the cardinal’s red hat. Soil from the grave was also placed inside the casket.
On November 4 Barack Obama became America’s first black president.
Cardinal Francis George, the Archbishop of Chicago and president of the American bishops’ conference, said all Americans should rejoice that a country that once tolerated slavery had elected a black man as the 44th President of the United States.
But he compared the treatment of the unborn today with that of black slaves in pre-civil war America. He said: “If the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision, that African Americans were other people’s property and somehow less than persons, were still settled constitutional law, Mr Obama would not be President of the United States.
“Today, as was the case 150 years ago, common ground cannot be found by destroying the common good. The common good can never be adequately incarnated in any society when those waiting to be born can be legally killed at choice.” Cardinal George’s comments were greeted with applause at the US bishops’ plenary meeting in Baltimore, Maryland.
Also this month voters in California threw out a law permitting same-sex couples to marry just months after it was enacted.
They approved California’s Proposition 8, which would amend the state constitution to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman, by a 52 per cent to 48 per cent margin. Catholics and Mormons campaigned heavily for the rejection of the law.
Two Christian adoption agencies announced they had changed their charitable objects to allow them to turn away same-sex couples on religious grounds.
St Margaret’s Adoption and Child Care Society, a Catholic agency in Glasgow, and the Cornerstone Adoption and Fostering Service, an evangelical agency in the north-east of England, will now be able to comply with new gay rights laws while remaining true to their religious convictions.
Their success in changing their constitutions to comply with the law and stay within the control of their respective churches has raised serious questions over why the 11 English and Welsh Catholic adoption agencies have been unable to do the same.
Cardinal MurphyO’Connor proposed that the Government should grant an amnesty to illegal immigrants who have settled in Britain, a policy which both Labour and the Conservatives oppose.
His remarks came after Mayor of London Boris Johnson announced a study into an amnesty for longterm illegal immigrants in the capital. Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said the idea was “naïve in the extreme”. In an interview with the Sunday programme on BBC Radio 4, the Cardinal said: “There is a point here about some migrants who come here and are here for years and they are undocumented. After a certain time, a way should be given for them to receive citizenship here and so get the benefits of that.” DECEMBER
After years of improving relations between the Cuban state and the Church, Cuban president Raul Castro attended his country’s first beatification ceremony.
His unexpected arrival was greeted with applause by people who had come from all over Cuba to attend the beatification of 19thcentury Brother José Olallo.
His presence was seen as a signal to the nation’s Catholics that despite decades of repression by the Communist government they should feel free to express their faith.
In the early years of the revolution hundreds of priests were expelled or forced to work in labour camps and anyone who declared their faith openly was barred from many jobs. The country’s Catholic education system was also dismantled.
But after the collapse of the Soviet bloc the state softened its hard-line stance and in 1992 it amended its constitution so that it was no longer officially atheist.
Cardinal MurphyO’Connor, meanwhile, asked for a Renaissance painting on display in the National Gallery to be placed in a church instead, as “work of faith”.
He said a depiction of the Baptism of Christ by Piero della Francesca, the 15thcentury genius of geometry and perspective, should hang in a Catholic church.
He said it was a mistake “to treat it as a work of art; it is a work of faith and piety, an expression of the Church’s life and a way into prayer”.
The bishops of England and Wales attracted criticism when they called for Muslim prayer rooms to be opened in every Catholic school. They also called for special toilet facilities in schools to be adapted for Islamic cleaning rituals.
The bishops said 30 per cent of pupils attending Catholic schools had a nonChristian faith.
“If practicable, a room (or rooms) might be made available for the use of pupils and staff from other faiths for prayer,” they said in a document called Catholic Schools, Children of Other Faiths and Community Cohesion.
In the same week it emerged that four dioceses were planning to hold collections to raise money for adoption agencies which have cut ties with the Church to comply with gay rights laws.
The dioceses of Southwark, Arundel and Brighton and Portsmouth will continue to support the Cabrini Children’s Society, formerly their joint Catholic Children’s Society, despite having cut ties with it earlier in the year year. Clifton diocese will also seek to support its adoption agency in spite of a split with the Church.
The bishops resigned as trustees and relinquished control of the society earlier this year.
The Cabrini Children’s Society is listed in the 2009 Catholic Directory and also appears under the diocesan collections section of Southwark’s directory for the next year. Both the Lenten alms collection and the crib collection at Christmas will go to the society, which is described as “a regional social care agency”.
This came only days after Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor said that the rise of secularism in Britain had created an “unfriendly climate” for people who hold religious beliefs.
The Cardinal said atheists had become “more vocal and aggressive” and that the Catholic Church had borne the brunt of liberal hostility.
He said: “Religious belief of any kind now tends to be treated more as a private eccentricity than as the central and formative element in British society that it is.” The Cardinal made his comments in an essay for a book published by the Institute for Public Policy Research, a liberal think-tank close to the Labour Government.
It is a theme the Cardinal had returned to repeatedly amid clashes with the Government over gay adoption, faith schools and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill.