- Battle lines drawn
This week produced the clearest evidence yet that the Synod Fathers are sharply divided between those who are supporting Pope Francis in his efforts to present a more pastoral vision of the Church and those determined first and foremost to emphasise its moral teaching
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With the discovery of the body of a Catholic king, one might think that the only worry for the local Catholic bishop would be where the service of re-interment should be held, when it should be held, which rite to use; the old Sarum or the Tridentine, who to invite, and so on.
But with Richard III it didn't happen that way; the licence granted to the archaeologists of Leicester University by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) stated that the re-interment should be 'at the Jewry wall Museum or else ... at St Martin's Cathedral [Leicester] or in a burial ground in which interments may legally take place.' Hence Leicester Cathedral being given, and taking, first say.
The Plantagenet Alliance, which includes 15 descendants of King Richard and who want him to be buried in York Minster, applied for a judicial review of the decision. They claimed that a consultation should have been put in place by the MOJ at the initial stages and that they, as descendants of King Richard, should have been included.
Last month Sir Charles Haddon-Cave granted this, accepting the strong argument that King Richard's own views should be taken into consideration. As well as the location of where he might want to be buried, King Richard was, of course, an English Roman Catholic King.
In the last year of his life he commissioned, in York, a college of 100 priests and who were to be chantry priests, with their focus on praying for the dead and which he hoped would help him on Judgment Day; a true expression of the only faith he ever knew. His ties with York are strong, but so is his Roman Catholic identity and St George's church and St Wilfrid's church, both in York, are both Roman Catholic and both have held cathedral status.
Other places want King Richard, and Leicester of course has its own strong say. Dr John Ashdown-Hill, himself a Catholic, is the academic whose expertise in fifteenth-century English history, combined with his research into King Richard's mitochondrial DNA, led to him amassing very significant evidence for the whole DNA trail, has suggested that the re-interment be at the Dominican Priory in Leicester.
Sir Charles also said that it is plainly arguable that the relevant ecclesiastical bodies among others should have been included in a consultation and that a consultation process should begin even before the judicial review takes place - an indication of what a successful judicial review would bring! In a belated consultation begun earlier this year (but put on hold), the MOJ invited the Roman Catholic Church to take part, so let's hope that our bishops are fully included in any consultation and let's encourage them to include themselves fully!
Sir Charles also mentioned two online government e-petitions, one calling for the king to be buried in Leicester and another advocating York Minster. But he didn't mention the petition for a Catholic burial, which, although it attracted more than 1,200 signatures, gained far less support than the others.
That petition has now closed but I have started a new petition, arguing the case for a service and burial in a Catholic church. Personally I suggest that if in Leicester, it should be in the Dominican Priory, or, if in York, in St George's or St Wilfrid's church.
Richard III did not, and never could have, belonged to the Church of England: it was created by the son of the man who defeated him at Bosworth Field.