BY LUKE COPPEN
THE CHURCH must strenuously resist all attempts to drive out religion from public life, the Archbishop of Birmingham has said. Archbishop Vincent Nichols claimed that the Church's contribution to public debate was too often belittled by a "vociferous minority", in his first public engagement since an operation to replace his right hip. Preaching at the annual Chrism Mass at St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham, on Wednesday, the archbishop said he had used his period of "enforced idleness" to reflect on how the Church should present the Gospel to secular society. He said: "Evangelisation means that together, collectively, we try to create a clearer public expectation that religious faith and the moral dimension of life it nurtures, are vitally important.
"In fact we know from history that the well-being of society, indeed of democracy itself, depends not only upon shared moral perspectives, but also on a profound trust that each person is a moral being, capable of really distinguishing good from evil.
"So when some people promote a stance of moral neutrality, or the view that morality is simply personal preference, they weaken the foundations of our society. Too often religious belief and the importance of moral judgement are belittled by a vociferous minority. "Our task is to resist their deliberate efforts to render our society completely secular, removing from our public forum, our public culture, our public education, all traces of religious faith.
"We can do so by our example, putting forward our arguments and by the strength of association." The archbishop's remarks echoed recent comments by the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor. Earlier this month, the Cardinal warned Catholics that British society was becoming increasingly closed to the Gospel. "It does not know it, and it does not want to," he said during an address at the Birmingham Oratory marking the end of 200th anniversary celebrations of Cardinal John Henry Newman's birth.
In his homily on Wednesday, Archbishop Nichols urged priests and people of the archdiocese to make good use of a special Eastertide programme of prayer and reflection. entitled Walk With Me.
Nearly 200,000 booklets, containing reflections and prayers for every day from Easter to Pentecost, have now been distributed through the parishes of the Archdiocese of Birmingham.