Latest Issue: 28 March 2015
28 March 2015
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Columnists

26 March 2015 by David Blair

Benjamin Netanyahu cut an imperial figure when he appeared before thousands of supporters in Tel Aviv last week. Having just achieved a fourth election victory against all the odds, the Israeli Prime Minister was in no mood for modesty or magnanimity.

26 March 2015 by Christopher Howse

Both Tony Blair and Richard III were in the news this week. One, a monster of duplicity, with an eye on power alone, accused by his enemies of responsibility for numberless deaths. The other, a pious medieval king.

26 March 2015 by Joanna Moorhead

Recently I met a young woman who suffered from anorexia. She told me how her illness made her dishonest (people with this disorder often lie about how much they eat) and about how she made life hell for her family for many years. “I hope you don’t think I’m a horrible person,” she said eventually.

26 March 2015 by Michael Canaris

We’ve had a spell of wet weather here and, as in most other places, the local meteorologists take a verbal lashing when they are wrong about the forecast, and one is caught unawares.

26 March 2015 by Jonathan Tulloch

The Badger lay on the roadside verge. Snout tucked under paws, back arched comfortably, he seemed to be sleeping. When I got close, I saw his eyes were open but lifeless. A trick of death had gentled the snarling jaw to a smile. The car must have hit him in the night. Primroses rose on the bank behind him. A queen bumble bee, freshly woken from winter, buzzed by.

Previous issues

19 March 2015 by Clifford Longley

The opening of Gone with the Wind describes the war between the American North and South as a resumption of a much older conflict between Roundheads and Cavaliers in the English Civil War. This points to a more universal truth. The expressions “roundhead” and “cavalier” may refer to a pattern of character traits that are, if not inbred,

19 March 2015 by Peter Stanford

Statistics have a habit of passing me by – not, I should stress, because I fall into that fashionable trap of disparaging number skills (no one boasts “I’m no good at English”, so why say it about maths?), but rather because I tend to need to hear a view expressed before it feels real to me.

19 March 2015 by Peter Hennessy

Kenneth Clarke is one of the great survivors of modern politics. He has filled a fistful of the great offices of state including Chancellor of the Exchequer and Lord Chancellor. He was first elected to Parliament in 1970. The phrase “downy old bird” could have been coined for him and he has a wide appeal across the parties.

19 March 2015 by Jonathan Tulloch

I wasn’t the only one up early. As I biked through the back lanes, with the dawn mist just lifting, the curlew’s cry sounded out. There’s nothing like the sound of a curlew. The haunting lilt of notes blew through the bare, early spring fields like a breeze from the wilderness. Impossible not to stop when you hear a curlew. I pulled up, got off my bike, and leaning against a gate, listened.

12 March 2015 by Francis Campbell

Immigration is likely to be a significant subject in the minds of the electorate as the general election approaches. But is the issue a genuine point in the minds of voters or is it exploited by some politicians as they seek electoral gain?

12 March 2015 by Christopher Howse

Middle-class anxiety informed some of the choice of news coverage last week. “Children who fail to visit their frail elderly parents for months at a time will go to Hell, the Pope said.” That was the Daily Mail’s interpretation of his words “before 20,000 people in St Peter’s Square” last week. “He told a story of how when Archbishop of Buenos Aires he visited a care home and spoke to elderly residents.

12 March 2015 by Sara Maitland

It was International Women’s Day last Sunday, which meant sadly the old dreary plod through the numbers to see that inequality between the sexes continues across almost every conceivable measure: women in global and national statistics do less well in health, wealth, basic freedoms and rights, access to education, to chosen employment, to leisure, to safety and to respect.

12 March 2015 by Marco Politi

Romans, with their mischievous sense of humour, call them the “Amazons”: the women enrolled as members of the security staff of the Vatican Museums. Up until now, their role has been to oversee and protect visitors, and they have not been part of the papal Gendarmerie. Yet there is no doubt that in future their role will be extended to other parts of Vatican City.

12 March 2015 by Jonathan Tulloch

Our old friend the north wind doth blow. We’re well into March, but spring still feels far away. This afternoon, toiling into bitter gusts, I was about to call it a day and head for home, when I saw the treecreeper. There were two of them in the alders.

05 March 2015 by Clifford Longley

Compared with the fate of other former disc jockeys, elderly pop stars and motley faded celebrities who have recently been sentenced for child abuse, the 16-year term handed down to singer Gary Glitter, real name Paul Francis Gadd, doesn’t seem out of line. If it departs from the sentencing guidelines and tariffs currently in force, no doubt the Court of Appeal will correct it.

05 March 2015 by Laurence Freeman

After he led the John Main Seminar, “The New Creation in Christ”, I took a plane with Bede Griffiths. He was then in his eighties and recovering from a near fatal stroke. He was grateful for the spiritual benefits of it. He had been sitting in his small hut at Shantivanam when, he said, it was if somebody had punched him hard in the head and his vision went blurred – like the old televisions when they went wobbly.

05 March 2015 by Marcus Walker

“We will conquer Rome by the will of Allah”. This bravura statement, coming at the end of the ghastly video showing the slaughter of Coptic Christians in Libya, may have been missed by people in the rest of the world (focusing, rightly, on the human tragedy shown on the film), but it wasn’t missed in Italy.

05 March 2015 by Jonathan Tulloch

I stepped off the bus and stopped dead. There was chimney smoke on the wind. The acrid tang carried me instantly back to childhood. Both sets of my grandparents had open fires.

26 February 2015 by David Blair

When is an invasion not an invasion? The bitter experience of Ukraine suggests that if Russia sends a trickle of soldiers into its neighbour – rather than a flood – then it can somehow avoid the stigma of attacking another country.

26 February 2015 by Christopher Howse

Similes are addictive, like Werther’s Originals. Or like crystal meth. Yes, it all depends on the simile one chooses. This week Lord Carey of Clifton, a former Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote in The Mail on Sunday that the three-parent baby procedure debated in the Lords was “like an organ transplant”.

26 February 2015 by Michael Canaris

After seeing the recent reports and moving videos of Pope Francis making an unannounced visit to a migrants’ shanty town outside Rome, I was doing some reading and stumbled across a papal statement on the issue in the American context, which at first sight seemed pretty prosaic.

26 February 2015 by Jonathan Tulloch

You know the kind of day – a raw wind and a February sun that stings your eyes without warming your face. I was on the bridleway’s most exposed point when the hare surprised me. Concealed in the long grass beside the path, it suddenly rose on long legs, and lumbered away through the winter wheat.

19 February 2015 by Clifford Longley

As with the gay marriage debate last year, Catholics were recently urged to contact their local MP to protest at proposed legislation that would allow mitochondrial donation to be used to create what were dubbed “three-parent babies”. As with gay marriage, the legislation was duly passed in the House of Commons by a thumping majority.

19 February 2015 by Hannah Roberts in Rome

Pope Francis may have bitten off more than he can chew with his well-meaning new venture for the homeless, according to some. He has installed showers under the colonnades of St Peter’s for the homeless and a barber shop that will be staffed by volunteers on Mondays, the traditional barber’s day off.

19 February 2015 by Jonathan Tulloch

With a jolt I realised it was over 10 years ago that we put in the wildlife pond. A decade since that sunlit day of spades and laughter with my son and nephew. My son is a young man of 15 now; my nephew drives a wagon that would scare you to look at. The pond, too, seemed to be showing signs of passing time.

12 February 2015 by Francis Campbell

Henry Kissinger is said to have asked: “When I want to speak to Europe, who do I call?”

12 February 2015 by Christopher Howse

To help readers discover how politically incorrect they are, The Sunday Times ran a little quiz earlier this month. Question 9 was: “Do you think Stephen Fry is: a) A doughty campaigner for gay rights? b) Very clever on QI and awfully good as Jeeves? c) Looking rather fat and smug these days?” Those who answered c were characterised as being white-van drivers – the sort of person who drapes flags of St George on the house and is patronised by passing Labour MPs.

12 February 2015 by Sara Maitland

Recently I have been getting interested in geology. This started because around here there are a lot of big chunks of rock that, unlike the extrudant granite, seem to sit on the ground, rather than rise out of it.

12 February 2015 by Marco Politi

The new year began very badly for Fr Rosario Badolato, parish priest in the little town of Cessaniti in Calabria, southern Italy. On the feast of the Epiphany, when Italian children traditionally receive presents, his car was set alight near the church.

12 February 2015 by Jonathan Tulloch

Who needs a weather station when you’ve got a washing line? There can be fewer more accurate thermometers than the rush of morning air as you step outside with the washing basket first thing.

05 February 2015 by Clifford Longley

There is a simple explanation for the disillusionment with politics that seems to be growing as the British general election approaches.

05 February 2015 by Joanna Moorhead

Women priests? Frankly, the Church should be so lucky. I know tens of wonderful Catholic women who would have been brilliant priests.

05 February 2015 by Peter Hennessy

We are barely in the foothills of the 2015 general election battle, yet we are showing signs of exhaustion with the peaks still to come.

05 February 2015 by Catherine Pepinster

Eamon Duffy’s insightful account of Thomas More in The Tablet last week threw a spotlight on sainthood and to what extent our notions of sanctity are culturally determined by the spirit of the age in which we live.

05 February 2015 by Marcus Walker

Aftershocks of the massacres in Paris continue to be felt around the globe. Italians, who often maintain a lofty indifference to news from the rest of the world, were engrossed in the rolling news from Paris

05 February 2015 by Jonathan Luxmoore

Even the most mundane car journey can be a safari – if you’re lucky enough not to be the driver.

29 January 2015 by David Blair

Scarcely a day passes without the Islamist gunmen of Boko Haram carrying out an atrocity in northern Nigeria. Last Sunday, they were bold enough to attack the city of Maiduguri and, for a few hours, fight for control of the airport.

29 January 2015 by Laurence Freeman

Discover the real Middle Earth.” We climbed into two buses after the retreat and before the opening of the seminar to do what the brochures invited. It was a scorching New Zealand summer day, like the magical English summers of childhood’s selective memory.

29 January 2015 by Christopher Howse

In a week when the Church of England ordained its first woman bishop, I’m still puzzled by people referring to clergy as “men in dresses”. Neither cassocks nor vestments resemble women’s dresses, any more than kilts do or the Dalai Lama’s robes.

29 January 2015 by Michael Canaris

One of the many events in Rome marking the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was co-sponsored by the Centro Pro Unione and the Lay Centre at the former’s historic location in the palazzo belonging to the Doria Pamphilj family on Piazza Navona.

29 January 2015 by Jonathan Tulloch

It’s that time of the year again. The winter seems endless; the days appear locked into a trance of cold winds, semolina skies and cheerless suns. Yet despite this, nominations for the George Orwell Prize for Early Signs of Spring are already being taken.

22 January 2015 by Clifford Longley

Hayat Boumeddiene, top of the Most Wanted list in France though she may actually be in Syria, has been photographed with crossbow while dressed in a black Islamic niqab. The partner of Amedy Coulibaly, who killed four innocent shoppers in a Paris

22 January 2015 by Hannah Roberts in Rome

When Iana Aleksandrovna Azhdanova, a Ukrainian Femen activist, got arrested, with the words “God is a Woman” daubed across her bare chest, in St Peter’s Square on Christmas Day, it did not make big news here. She was accused of the offence of vilipendio, or insulting a religion publicly, and locked in the cells in the Gendarmerie barracks.

22 January 2015 by Jonathan Tulloch

TOWARDS MIDDAY the blue sky bruised to lilac. It darkened further to a violent violet, and then the snow began. The thick flakes fell all afternoon, but with night the clouds dispersed and the stars shouldered themselves above the village.

15 January 2015 by Christopher Howse

Newspapers like to have things clear, so it was impressive that the Daily Mirror’s explainer, “Why publishing pictures of the Prophet is a minefield”, began with the statement: “Islam’s rules on publishing pictures of the Prophet Mohammed are far from clear.” In 50 words, a model of brevity, the paper summed up the position: “Any depiction is forbidden by certain Muslims, including many Sunnis.

15 January 2015 by Francis Campbell

In today’s popular mindset, religion is often associated with violence rather than peace. On a superficial level, such associations could be forgiven. In the media we often see depictions of religion alongside violence, especially when reporting atrocities from across the world. Often such depictions are unrepresentative.

15 January 2015 by Sara Maitland

As part of my New Year review I have been confronting an uncomfortable little hypocrisy. In a number of these columns over the past year or so I have urged, even demanded, that people become more open and articulate about their personal spiritual practice, about what they do and what they experience when they pray; but I have never done so myself.

15 January 2015 by Marco Politi

On paper, Pope Francis’ programme of curial reform is at an advanced stage. Vatican officials, who are up to date with meetings of the group of cardinals advising the Pope, the C9, say that at least a part of the reshaping process has been completed. It should result in the creation of two new bodies.

15 January 2015 by Jonathan Tulloch

EVEN ON THE windiest days, and in the most unpromising places, you’re likely to meet a wren. Harried by bitter gale-force gusts, I was being blown along a low-cut hedgerow when I caught sight of the bird.

08 January 2015 by Clifford Longley

A priest friend of mine once provocatively declared that there were no mortal sins any more – except voting Tory. He was being mischievous. But the question still arises: are our immortal souls ever at risk when we go to a polling station?

08 January 2015 by Laurence Freeman

Slea Head in West Kerry is austere in January. But there are magnificent clear days as well as low, slow mists that shroud everything. Walkers on coastal paths on these cold days exchange short, warm greetings, recovering the intimacy of strangers passing in lonely places from the polite,

08 January 2015 by Marcus Walker

A long-standing Roman tradition in the run-up to the Epiphany has been the fair in the Piazza Navona dedicated to “La Befana” – a curious present-giving witch who, in Italian folklore, appears on the Epiphany (and is mercifully free from reindeer and bright red Coca-Cola rebranding).

08 January 2015 by Jonathan Tulloch

The commotion drew a small crowd. The scene, the entrance to a Morrison’s supermarket; the actors, a little girl and a herring gull. The little girl was willingly sharing her sausage roll with the herring gull; and the herring gull was willingly accepting the largesse.

30 December 2014 by Christopher Howse

The most illuminating words for me in the limbo between Christmas and bright new 2015 came in a piece by Catherine Philp in The Times: “Even if they are willing, many ordinary Yazidis are unable to explain the origins of their esoteric traditions – the refusal to wear blue or eat lettuce, for example.”

30 December 2014 by Michael Canaris

The Vatican announced that the date of the pope’s next consistory has been set for February 14-15, following meetings of the new papal commission on sexual abuse of minors and the group of cardinal-advisers known as the C9 in the days preceding it.

30 December 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

It hung on the wall for as long as I could remember. A lake scene that my grandfather brought back from the Second World War. It was a simple picture that took you into its vast tranquillity. The gilt frame was cracked and peeling but the scene inside was forever pristine.

18 December 2014 by Peter Stanford

One of my childhood Christmas Day rituals was morning Mass, clad in whatever awful anorak or jumper Santa had left under the tree. Each time the church door would creak open, I’d peep over my shoulders during a chorus of “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” to see which of my friends had just come in, trussed up in their new togs, and evaluate at a glance how terrible (or cool) they were.

18 December 2014 by Christopher Howse

Christmas is the time of year when you want to break a stout stick over the head of the first person who says that the whole thing is over-commercialised. Or at least I do. It is not only that it is a cliché, but, like every reader of The Tablet, I have already worked out ways of finding space in the Yuletide froth. It is a technique, like stopping a saucepan of milk from boiling over.

18 December 2014 by Joanna Moorhead

I love having four children, but every once in a while I encounter someone who is critical of my big family, and rude enough to tell me. It is irresponsible, they say, to have more than two kids, which is the “right” number because that replaces my husband and myself on the planet when we die.

18 December 2014 by David Blair

Back in 2012, a star of the global commentariat declared that oil prices would “skyrocket to permanently higher levels”. Since then, the price of a barrel of Brent crude has plummeted by more than 40 per cent, proving yet again the folly of making predictions.

18 December 2014 by Hannah Roberts in Rome

A REPORT INTO the apostolic visitation to the nuns of the United States published this week should have been out before the Year of Consecrated Life began on 30 November, but was slightly delayed. A separate report into American nuns accused of “radical ­feminism” is likely to be delayed far longer as the panel is having difficulty reaching agreement.

18 December 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

Up and down the country, and indeed across the whole world, robins have been recently flying through letter boxes and landing on doormats. It is no surprise that these little birds are a favourite on our Christmas cards.

11 December 2014 by Clifford Longley

If I were Chancellor of the Exchequer, I would pray for a rapid return of trade- union militancy. George Osborne’s management of the national finances has been torpedoed by falling tax revenues and rising welfare bills. Both are caused by the same phenomenon: income levels are failing to keep pace with the cost of living.

11 December 2014 by Sara Maitland

Recently I have been reading a fascinating book called A Flourishing Practice? by Peter Toon, published by the Royal College of General Practitioners, which is an attempt to apply the “virtue ethics” of Alasdair MacIntyre to the NHS, both structurally and personally in the sense of enquiring about what would make a “virtuous” doctor.

11 December 2014 by Marco Politi

THE EXTRAORDINARY Synod on the Family has left the Church bruised and 2015 promises to be a tough year for Pope Francis. The Pope’s supporters did not expect such strong resistance to his vision for a more compassionate and less judgemental Church. In recent weeks they have been urging him to make a faster and more radical reshuffle of senior positions in the Vatican.

11 December 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

A sharp wind scoured the fields. The afternoon was lengthening. Heading for home, a raucous cacophony began behind me. It grew louder: a flock of rooks was making for its winter roost.

04 December 2014 by Francis Campbell

Frequently I am asked about my preferences with regards to popes. It is most likely due to the job I once held in Rome. But it is a question that often confuses me, especially when asked by Catholics, as I fear they are inserting democratic norms and principles into the papacy.

04 December 2014 by Laurence Freeman

I met the other day, in Latin America, a remarkable group of young people. They had discovered the contemplative dimension of life at an early stage thanks to a teacher who had discovered it later in his life. They were waiting sedately in the chapel, in their pews, when I arrived to meet them.

04 December 2014 by Christopher Howse

A tiny picture 21mm deep of Pope Francis apparently rubbing noses with Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople went with The Times’ report on Monday of their meeting in Istanbul. In The Daily Telegraph a picture 215mm deep showed the Pope’s face in profile, looking a little like Alec Guinness,...

04 December 2014 by The Revd Marcus Walker

Anyone moving to live in Rome (as I did six months ago to work at the Anglican Centre) gets a full-immersion baptism into the delights and absurdities of Italian life, writes Marcus Walker.

04 December 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

Gales of laughter gusted down the lane. What was it? Not human. Was a hyena loose among the rain-sodden sheep? The green woodpecker’s call is surely among the most striking in the animal kingdom.

27 November 2014 by Clifford Longley

Like Ukip’s leader Nigel Farage, I too have sat on a train from London’s Charing Cross hearing every language except English, at least until we reach Grove Park in Lewisham. But my reaction could not be more different from his, which may be summarised as “how dare they come over here and speak their language in our trains?”

27 November 2014 by Peter Hennessy

One of the few near certainties in a fluid political scene – with a Rubik’s Cube’s worth of outcomes possible after next May’s general election – is that in a year’s time we will be in the midst of a strategic defence and security review (SDSR). By my calculation, it will be the twelfth such review since the end of the Second World War.

27 November 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

The river is calm; it flows gently into the North Sea. But the sea beyond the wide welcome of the harbour arms is wild. Waves crash against the Tynemouth headland; shredding on the crags, the foam flies as high as the ruins on the promontory above.

20 November 2014 by David Blair

The daily struggle for control of Jerusalem’s holy places has been waged at least since Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the first Jewish Temple in 586 BC. Often, this ceaseless battle takes the form of Jewish settlers clubbing together to buy a house in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City,

20 November 2014 by Christopher Howse

The headline in The Sun summed it up: “Jesus wed hooker and had two kids.” If the language in the headline was a little rebarbative, the reporter adopted a more decorous tone in the relative amplitude of a 130-word report: “A lost gospel has been translated to reveal Jesus married prostitute Mary Magdalene and they had two children.

20 November 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

One by one, the colours of autumn have faded. Only the orange of the larches remains, curled round the nose of the hill like a fox’s tail. And the bright flames of the beech trees, whose leaves stay longest on the branch.

13 November 2014 by Clifford Longley

Scene One – what actually happened. Woman sitting on pavement, begging. Enter the leader of the Opposition on a walkabout, with aides, journalists and photographers. What does he do? Begging is illegal, he is thinking; the Big Issue movement, which helps the homeless to help themselves, says one should never give in to it.

13 November 2014 by Sara Maitland

C.S. Lewis said that cowardice is one sin that offers no pleasure, no compensation – unlike, for instance, gluttony. Being afraid and letting that fear control you is generally pretty horrid. This is possibly why making other people fearful or anxious has a certain nasty delight to it.

13 November 2014 by Peter Stanford

I do not think I have met anyone who has been excommunicated before: plenty who wonder about the wisdom of some church teachings, plus others who have left because they disagree so fervently with it over questions of doctrine, or have been so damaged or appalled by its behaviour

13 November 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

At first I thought the grey-blue, rather stiff-winged bird was a collared dove. But there was something a little too quick and purposeful about the flight. The flight became even more rapid as the bird swooped low over the ground. Express wing beats were punctuated by a full-tilt glide that shot it round an oak tree and into a small flock of sparrows in the stubble.

06 November 2014 by Francis Campbell

Late last month, a court in Lahore rejected the appeal of Asia Bibi – the illiterate Christian farmhand accused of blasphemy and sentenced to death by hanging. Asia has already spent more than five years in prison and is perhaps the most high-profile victim of Pakistan’s blasphemy law.

06 November 2014 by Laurence Freeman

This is the time when we especially remember the dead and discover whether they are still within us. It is a test of the kind of relationship we had with them under this sky. I was thinking of Nicole from our community who died recently. At her memorial service her son, Laurent, in the softest voice ever used in a church, spoke about his mother.

06 November 2014 by Christopher Howse

Have you ever explained the rules of football to someone, or the workings of a car engine? It is not easy to put into concise, lucid prose. Yet if an attempt is made to explain briefly the deliberations of the Council of Chalcedon on the nature of Christ, say, the terminology itself is often regarded as a criticism of Christian thinkers

06 November 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

I was deep in the winter wheat when I heard the haunting whisper. Time and time again the same melancholy whistle passed overhead, but when I looked up I saw only the grey November afternoon. Then I caught a whir of wings passing through the low clouds, a flock of calling golden plovers.

30 October 2014 by Clifford Longley

The proportion of children born into families in Britain where the parents are unmarried is fast approaching 50 per cent. Across Europe, the overall percentage of such children is 40 per cent and rising, with the United States not very different.

30 October 2014 by Joanna Moorhead

Was the Synod on the Family a missed opportunity? There were all our esteemed church leaders, grappling with the messy, slippery problems of family life.

30 October 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

WHATEVER HAPPENED to the aspidistra? There was a time when every house in Britain had one. With leaves like wide, waving tongues of green flame, the aspidistra first became popular as a houseplant in Victorian days.

23 October 2014 by David Blair

The oldest dictum of statecraft must be “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. As the terrorists of the Islamic State (IS) advance to the very barbed wire of Turkey’s southern frontier with Syria, this telling phrase helps explain recent events.

23 October 2014 by Christopher Howse

The question seems simple: should Catalonia be independent? But as the British found out with their own referendum, supplementary questions stick together like cranberries in muesli while any particular answer may long remain undiscovered, like the last teaspoon in the washing-up.

23 October 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

We all know how the film footage runs. The sound of honking draws the camera to a sky bruised with autumn, and then we see the geese. The flock stays in shot for a while, their beautiful, seemingly effortless skein rippling over the world.

16 October 2014 by Clifford Longley

Chatting to a taverna keeper during my recent holiday abroad, we discussed the secret of his success. “First, good meat, fresh vegetables, good chef; second, satisfied customers; then the money comes.”

16 October 2014 by Peter Stanford

It probably reveals something lacking in me, but I do love a list. My mother, in moments of exasperation, used to refer to my father as “Old Tidyitis” and I fear I have his genes in this respect.

16 October 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

HAS ANYONE ever compiled a list of remarkable public benches? When I have retired I may well do so, and one of the first to be registered will be the bench at Byland Abbey, North Yorkshire.

09 October 2014 by Francis Campbell

This week we celebrated the Feast of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman. Among the many things the late cardinal is remembered for is his text The Idea of a University, published in 1852, but initially presented as a series of lectures

09 October 2014 by Laurence Freeman

It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. This provocative pensée by Oscar Wilde has a certain depth to it, despite his brazen rejection of “deep ideas”. When he visited New York in 1882, a city then of a mere million, the tallest building was Trinity Church at Wall Street.

09 October 2014 by Christopher Howse

Although the secular press carried previews of the Synod in Rome, the piece on godly matters with the most impact this week was surely The Sunday Times Magazine’s 11-page photo feature #IamMuslim. The title was not merely an example of trendy design.

09 October 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

I stepped out of the back door and straight into autumn. After a month or so of unseasonably warm September weather, the “phoney war” was over and the October winds had arrived.

02 October 2014 by Peter Hennessy

Historians always crave that which they cannot acquire. For British constitution watchers, there has always been one special network that never leaks, and of which no note of meetings is taken – the conversations between head of state and head of government.

02 October 2014 by Joanna Moorhead

Long before I had my own babies, I knew exactly how children ought to be raised. In my early twenties, I was full of retrospective advice for my own parents, and more than happy to point out the multitude of mistakes they’d made raising me, my sister and our two younger brothers.

02 October 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

if crane flies had an autumn weather wish list, then the past week would tick all the boxes. Warm, dry days followed by warm, dry nights. It’s their egg-laying time, and each tussock of yellowing grass plays host to a female crane fly producing the next generation.

25 September 2014 by David Blair

It has become the ultimate cliché, wheeled out by diplomats, politicians and United Nations officials. “There is no military solution to this problem,” they intone, whether the problem in question is terrorism in the Middle East or any other international crisis.

25 September 2014 by Sara Maitland

I live just off a 13-mile stretch of twisting, hilly, unfenced, single-track road, with passing places, some of them official ones with triangular markers and tarmac

25 September 2014 by Christopher Howse

I want to write about Buster Bottley, but first I’d like to say that I was glad the Pope was not assassinated during his visit to Albania. “What has been declared by the self-declared Islamic State is clear,” The Mail on Sunday quoted Iraq’s ambassador to the Holy See as saying.

25 September 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

PERHAPS IT’S Thomas Hardy’s greatest poem, and he didn’t even write it – at least not with a pen – as my son and I found out when, with an hour to kill before catching a train home, we went for a wander behind St Pancras Station.

18 September 2014 by Clifford Longley

In his Tablet Interview (opposite) Cardinal Walter Kasper was asked what he would do about the present impasse over contraception in the Catholic Church.

18 September 2014 by Peter Stanford

Do not speak ill of the dead. It was one of the rules I grew up with. Unlike so many of those other once-cherished codes that have now been jettisoned as stuffy or hypocritical, it still seems to hold sway.

18 September 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

The larder is full. Just over the wall into our neighbour’s garden, the elder trees are bent with berries. Time after time, the starlings flock over the roofs and dart down to the glistening, black fruit.

11 September 2014 by Francis Campbell

It is perhaps no coincidence that the United Kingdom in the space of the next two years is likely to face the consequences of two separate referendums on integration; the first on the union with Scotland in just five days’ time and the second on membership of the European Union promised by 2017.

11 September 2014 by Christopher Howse

As war battered the Middle East and a constitutional crisis in the form of Scottish independence loomed in the United Kingdom, the attention of the nation, or nations, was gripped for a week by the tale of Ashya King, aged five.

04 September 2014 by Clifford Longley

Andy Coulson is serving an 18-month prison sentence for phone hacking. That is the sort of a sentence one could expect for child cruelty, residential burglary or serious non-sexual assault.

04 September 2014 by Laurence Freeman

They say St Anthony of the Desert, the prototype of Christian monks, kept retreating further into the Egyptian desert as his fame increased and visitors multiplied. In the fourth century they did not come in tour buses, but the sense is that many were tourists nonetheless.

04 September 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

Procrastination can be a much-maligned pastime. For instance I’m so glad I was late sowing my runner beans this year.

28 August 2014 by David Blair

It was a scene that consciously imitated a famous Red Square parade from 1941. On Sunday, as the rest of Ukraine celebrated Independence Day, the pro-Russian rebels who control the eastern city of Donetsk chose to mark the occasion by herding their prisoners through the streets.

28 August 2014 by Christopher Howse

The murder by beheading of James Foley, the American journalist, enacted on video by the Islamic State, dominated coverage of the war in Iraq by the British press, partly because the propaganda voice of the ostensible killer on the video had a British accent. But Foley and his family were people with whom readers could empathise.

28 August 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

THE TRAIN was pulling out of Huddersfield station when we saw the burning bush. Loaded with flame red berries, the rowan tree really did look as though it was on fire. Behind it, the derelict woollen mill rose like a crag, its stone still dark with the soots of the Industrial Revolution.

21 August 2014 by Clifford Longley

Twenty years before Hitler, the Jewish community in Germany was one of the best- integrated in Europe. It followed a deliberate policy of assimilation into German life and culture. Yet under the Nazis, Germany became the torch-bearer for the most extreme anti-Semitism the world has ever seen.

21 August 2014 by Peter Stanford

High summer is when the rest of the country winds down, increasingly falling in with the southern European model of a long lazy August, even if we do not have quite the weather to justify it.

21 August 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

BEYOND THE harbour wall, the sea roared like a bull seal. Riding into the gale, a boat slowly took shape. The lobster men were coming back without a haul – you can’t bring in lobsters with such high winds.

14 August 2014 by Francis Campbell

Late last year, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, Douglas Alexander, wrote an article highlighting his concern about the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. Asked about it a few weeks later, he summed up the difficulty at the heart of Western indifference

14 August 2014 by Christopher Howse

Until the first week of this month, many people had not heard of the Yazidis. Readers had to catch up with the horrors of Iraq rapidly. Kurdish leaders, reported Richard Spencer, the Telegraph Middle East correspondent, on 4 August, were “caught unawares” by the sudden advance of the forces of the Islamic State (previously known as Isis) to capture the town of Sinjar.

14 August 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

EVERY TIME you look out of the window, there is a masterpiece being unfurled. A moment ago I spotted a butterfly on one of the apples. It was a red admiral and the rosy fruit echoed the deeper red of the black butterfly’s wing bands.

07 August 2014 by Clifford Longley

Responses to the worldwide consultation in preparation for this autumn’s Extraordinary Synod of Bishops suggest that, with regard to the issue of divorced and remarried Catholics receiving Holy Communion, a consensus exists around three propositions. The first is that the existing method of dealing with second marriages in the Church is doing more harm than good.

07 August 2014 by Sara Maitland

I’m sorry,” I said to a friend the other day. “Oh,” she replied. “What for?” And on inspection I really did not know. I did not mean, “I repent of something or other.” I meant something much vaguer, about smoothing a rough edge or ending a mild argument.

07 August 2014 by Laurence Freeman

The first surprise was Chicago itself. A real city. A place through which the peoples of the world flow and mingle, looking at each other across the great divides of culture and learn that the world is bigger than they imagined. Cities teach people how to get along with those different from themselves.

07 August 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

WOKEN BEFORE dawn by an unearthly screeching, I stumbled to the window. Had an owl caught a hare? Or worse? The shrieking grew louder. “Pigs,” my nephew informed me the next day. “They’ve just moved into Robson’s farm. Weaners.”

31 July 2014 by Catherine Pepinster

How we all long for a break, for a rest from the usual routine: an end to the nine-to-five, to the routines, to the worry and the stress. It is a simple thing for those of us with the wherewithal to organise it, but nigh impossible for others.

31 July 2014 by Christopher Howse

If the Queen’s coming round for tea,” the Daily Mirror advised, “leave oysters and lobster off the menu.” The Pope, too, “likes much more basic fare”, though “he takes the occasional break to treat himself to his favourite meal of bagna cauda (‘hot bath’ in Italian).

31 July 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

Are you a grasshopper or an ant? The story is as old as humanity. In the red corner we have the industrious, though dour ant, who works all year preparing for winter; in the blue, the fiddle-playing, goodtime grasshopper, who spends summer making music, and then the first cold breath of winter blows and …

24 July 2014 by Clifford Longley

But what if ATC gets it wrong; what if that total trust is not absolutely warranted? The explanation of the tragic and horrific crash of another Malaysian 777, this time in Ukraine, has many contributing factors, not least the irresponsibility of letting state-of-the-art anti-aircraft missiles fall into the hands of ill-disciplined militiamen.

24 July 2014 by Peter Stanford

I’ve just attended my first gay wedding. Two long-standing and very dear friends, originally of my wife’s, now of our whole family, got married on a sunny Friday lunchtime on the south coast, surrounded by their families, and those closest to them. There was a general sense among us of “what on earth has taken you so long?”

24 July 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

I’VE BEEN HERE before often, yet on each visit I can never quite believe it’s real. First of all you turn off the main road. Main road? Not exactly a motorway – the long-horned cattle in the field have far more hikers to gaze at than cars.

17 July 2014 by Christopher Howse

Thirty-nine tons of pleasure,” ran the headline in Le Bien Public, the regional daily of the Côte d’Or, with reference, of course, to the new tram in Dijon.

17 July 2014 by David Blair

Even the most wanton and pointless outbreaks of bloodshed eventually come to an end. By the time you read these words, the sudden conflagration between Israel and Gaza may have been dampened down – or, with a bit of luck, extinguished altogether.

17 July 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

The two figures emerged from under the mulberry tree. Clipboards and cameras in action, they walked slowly up the wide, uncut roadside verge. Zooming down the hill on my bike, I decided to stop. “We’re surveying the wild flowers,” they explained, National Park botanists both.

10 July 2014 by Clifford Longley

Last week’s Notebook page drew attention to the accusations of political bias that the Catholic Church in England and Wales might run into if it produced a pre-election statement in 2015 based on Catholic Social Teaching, as it has done before previous elections.

10 July 2014 by Sara Maitland

Recently, three totally disparate things have been making me think about Heaven.

10 July 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

Although common, the hedge woundwort is shy and retiring.

03 July 2014 by Laurence Freeman

I was waiting on the side of a busy street. Traffic flowed by like thoughts in neural pathways, sometimes speeding, sometimes congested. I saw occasional acts of kindness and many missed opportunities to make people feel better. Across the street the automatic doors of a large supermarket were opening and shutting continuously.

03 July 2014 by Christopher Howse

In The Independent, Peter Popham, an experienced foreign correspondent, grew quite hot under the collar that a blogger called Erasmus “thinks Pope Francis is a Bolshevik”. Erasmus writes on The Economist website, and though not calling the Pope a Bolshevik by name, he accused him of following an “ultra-radical line: one that consciously or unconsciously follows Vladimir Lenin in his diagnosis of capitalism”.

03 July 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

IF I WERE inventing a fairy tale, one of the characters would be a leaf-cutter bee. He would be one of the good guys.

26 June 2014 by Clifford Longley

Archbishop Derek Worlock always had a hankering to be a journalist. It is not inappropriate therefore to let him help me with my column this week. His is a voice we need to hear as the working document, or instrumentum laboris, for October’s Extraordinary Synod on the Family was due to be published this week.

26 June 2014 by Joanna Moorhead

Does having cancer change your life? Not in the long term, anyway: in the short term it can hardly fail to make you think things will be different, and significantly. If I get through this, you think, I won’t sweat the small stuff any more.

26 June 2014 by Peter Stanford

There are lots of figures plucked out of the air to justify the huge cost of global sporting events such as the current football World Cup in Brazil. Before and after our own 2012 Olympics, weighty reports totalled up billions and billions of pounds supposedly generated for our economy

26 June 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

You don’t get hummingbirds in Yorkshire, do you? I asked myself rather feverishly as I lay in the verge at the ruins of Byland Abbey, eight quiet miles from home.

19 June 2014 by Catherine Pepinster

In 1956 an unnamed MI6 officer used a tiny camera in an unlikely act of espionage: photographing, one by one, the pages of Boris Pasternak’s masterpiece, Dr Zhivago.

19 June 2014 by Christopher Howse

I have trouble with the sins of hypocrisy and blasphemy, though in contrary directions. Hypocrisy is saying one thing and doing another. “Activists poured concrete on top of spikes outside a central London branch of Tesco,” The Guardian re­ported on Saturday.

19 June 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

“Quick,” said the guide the moment we stepped into the RSPB visitors’ centre at Saltholme near Middlesbrough. “You must see this.” Clearly excited, he marched us to the ground-floor viewing area, which overlooks a phalanx of bird feeders.

12 June 2014 by Sara Maitland

I have mentioned before how much I am impressed and moved by the way the Church has coordinated the timing of our great feasts with the annual rhythm of the seasons; or perhaps more accurately, how skilfully she has adopted and adapted the traditions of her ancestry, deriving a springtime Easter from Jewish Passover

12 June 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

THE BEAUTY OF the common lizard takes your breath away. There it was basking in the sun on the quiet roadside. A sleek length of dark, parallel markings on a green body. An orangey flush of underparts. And a head with a reddish tinge.

05 June 2014 by Laurence Freeman

Two stumpy towers of light-drenched Provence stone stand out on the skyline of Marseilles, seen over the blue water and the forest of sailing masts from the Vieux Port. The Abbey of St Victor is embedded in this ancient city, although not as revered as the Basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde, overlooking everything and visible by everyone everywhere.

05 June 2014 by David Blair

If there is a frontline in Ukraine’s rebellion, it begins at the corner of Kyivsky and Partizanskyi avenues on the north-western edge of the city of Donetsk. Here, all traffic comes to a halt at a makeshift checkpoint consisting of old tyres piled in the middle of the road.

05 June 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

My favourite bench reclines in a slender, rather steep-sided valley about half a mile from the nearest hamlet. Framed by foxgloves and a rising bank of wildflowers, it faces one of the quiet roads that thread through our little range of hills. I sat there for an hour dandling a pen and empty page on my knee.

29 May 2014 by Clifford Longley

What do the polls really tell us? At the heart of the European project was a certain set of assumptions about the relationship between politics and economics, which may be beginning to fall apart. It was assumed that a single free-market economy could work across the whole continent without having one central government in charge.

29 May 2014 by Peter Stanford

There are all sorts of easy conclusions to reach on reading of the high proportion of Catholics behind bars in this country, as reported in these pages this month. If one in five prisoners is Catholic, according to Ministry of Justice figures, compared to roughly one in 12 nominally so in the population, ...

29 May 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

The last fortnight has been Shakespearian, “rough winds do shake the darling buds of May”. What will the coming months be like? Well, as we all know, summer’s lease hath all too short a date. Fortunately, however, we have a lodger that will add a few extra weeks to the summer’s expiry date.

22 May 2014 by Clifford Longley

There is something ominous about Michael Gove’s determination to insist all schools in Britain teach “British values”. The Secretary of State for Education has devised this as an answer to the threat of Islamist extremism in a handful of schools in Birmingham. His concerns are, on the evidence even of so few cases, justified.

22 May 2014 by Catherine Pepinster

Aldegonde Brenninkmeijer-Werhahn is one of those people who works with great influence behind the scenes in the Church. Her passion is theology and she has lectured widely in the subject as well as helped fund and support theological institutions. But much of it has been under the radar of ordinary Catholics – until the VatiLeaks scandal.

22 May 2014 by Christopher Howse

Boko Haram, the violent group that kidnapped more than 200 girls from their school at Chibok in Nigeria in mid-April, is always described in the press as “Islamist”.

22 May 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

I was working with the bees, which, in the life of a writer, is shorthand for saying I was in the garden with a book, reclining among the flowers on a sun lounger, when the amazing incident occurred.

15 May 2014 by Clifford Longley

Alarm about “religion being driven out of the public square” is distinctively American, but can be heard in Britain too. In both cases, the suggestion is of a secularist plot designed to deprive Churches and other religious bodies of their right to a voice in public debate. But the reality is more complex.

15 May 2014 by Joanna Moorhead

Like many people with early cancer (I am told), I am finding it impossible to adjust to the idea of being ill. Mostly that’s because I am patently not ill at all, not in the slightest. Last week I was swimming regularly (my usual 30 lengths); yesterday I cycled the three miles into central London for tea, and back.

15 May 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

Windows in urgent need of replacement, the property survey reported on our house when we moved in 15 years ago. Now at last we’ve signed on the dotted line for a new set in the lounge.

08 May 2014 by Christopher Howse

I know nothing about the affair apart from what I have read in the papers. My opinion is that the letter itself doesn’t ring true and is no more genuine than the Zinoviev letter, which in 1924 sketched out a plan to “develop the propaganda of ideas of Leninism in England”.

08 May 2014 by David Blair

The road north of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine runs through the heartland of what some already call a “people’s republic”. Pro-Russian gangs have seized control of a string of towns in a landscape of open fields and rolling hills scarred by the derelict hulks of old mines and factories.

08 May 2014 by Sara Maitland

On May Day, I hauled myself out of bed just before four in the morning and set off through the gradually paling dark to attend a “dawn chorus guided walk” in an ancient oak wood. I have wanted to be better at identifying birds by their voices and this seemed a rather glorious way to celebrate the spring.

08 May 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

I found the pilgrims standing at the wall above the abbey guest house. From a distance, the biscuit-coloured stonework looked ordinary enough; coming closer, I realised what they were looking at. One stone was a block containing a huge curled horn.

01 May 2014 by Clifford Longley

There are lies, damned lies and statistics. Mark Twain said it was Disraeli who invented that remark; some scholars suggest Mark Twain made it up himself. Whatever … There is yet another set of figures where lies and statistics are rolled into one - what people tell the pollsters, and how the media report it.

01 May 2014 by Laurence Freeman

The life of St Benedict, in a series of Renaissance frescoes around the cloister of Monte Oliveto Maggiore in Tuscany, reflects not only the legends of the “Life” but the way people believed and imagined the world in the era in which they were painted.

01 May 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

You can’t ask more of a pear tree. Firstly there’s the crystal icing of its blossom. Is there a more striking, whiter flower? Even on dull days like today, a blooming pear tree glistens like a constellation of gently scented stars. A touch of design genius sees that each blossom has tiny brown traceries tipped with black.

24 April 2014 by Catherine Pepinster

ack in March, one of the TV journalists standing outside Vanity Fair magazine’s Oscars party spotted an unlikely figure among the film stars and movie directors. “Sir Alex,” she shouted. “What are you doing here?”

24 April 2014 by Christopher Howse

Is Britain a Christian country? “I believe we should be more confident about our status as a Christian country,” David Cameron, the Prime Minister, wrote in an article for Easter in the Church Times.

24 April 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

If I were a king I would willingly give up my domains and dominions for the tawny mining bee.

16 April 2014 by Clifford Longley

It was apparently Bishop Basil Christopher Butler OSB who coined the term “creeping infallibility”.

16 April 2014 by Joanna Moorhead

I am not a particularly pious or devout person: passages from Scripture do not tend to replay themselves through my mind on a regular basis, nor do they trip easily off my tongue.

16 April 2014 by Peter Stanford

There are names aplenty, few of them kind, that have been thrown at me as a journalist, but “walkie-talkie” is new. It came my way when I recently met the remarkable Baroness Campbell of Surbiton, who prefers to be called Jane.

16 April 2014 by Sara Maitland

I am just back from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I have never been before and I am still feeling overwhelmed.

16 April 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

IS THERE anyone still alive who can remember the heyday of the cowslip?

10 April 2014 by Christopher Howse

Just as the statues in church were being swaddled with purple cloth last weekend, the advertisements from rival supermarkets were getting well stuck into Easter consumption. Superior cheese, which I hadn’t previously reckoned a paschal speciality, was being pushed by Lidl under its Deluxe brand in the so-called quality press.

10 April 2014 by Laurence Freeman

“Slam dunk” has entered popular American speech from the religion of basketball to signify a “sure thing”. It refers to a certain crowd-pleasing shot in which a player places the ball in the net from above and does so with at least one hand touching the rim.

10 April 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

France has the mistral, North Africa its sirocco. Western Australia is known for the Fremantle Doctor, and we have the haar. All these winds can radically alter the quality of life.

03 April 2014 by Clifford Longley

This is more appropriate for someone previously baptised – who is already, in the words of Vatican II’s Decree on Ecumenism, in “imperfect communion” – than for someone who is not (as indeed was my own case).

03 April 2014 by Peter Hennessy

As a historian, I’m not a “history-repeats-itself” man. Yet I am with Mark Twain when he said, “History doesn’t repeat itself but sometimes it rhymes.” Does the Ukraine/Crimea crisis have a touch of the Mark Twains about it? Is it a rhyming couplet with the Cold War?

03 April 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

AS MARCH gives way to April, how hard it is to remain patient. I want to see the full pantechnicon of spring rolling past, and I want it now! Far better to savour every small step in the cavalcade of growth.

27 March 2014 by David Blair

The world is a violent place, but one country very rarely annexes the territory of another. The formal and forcible incorporation of Crimea into Russia marks the first such act in Europe since 1945.

27 March 2014 by Christopher Howse

It was raining in Venice on Sunday as I made my way to noon Mass at St Mark’s. A small group huddled under gold and red flags bearing the Lion of St Mark was standing about in the colonnade at the west end of the square.

27 March 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

AS THE distinguished Orcadian poet (and prolific contributor to The Tablet) George Mackay Brown once wrote, in time all human materials grow beautiful – except concrete. To many perhaps, the abandoned petrol station at the top of the village couldn’t be considered proof of the Orkney man’s words.

20 March 2014 by Clifford Longley

The riots and demonstrations in Cairo in 2011, and the similar breakdown in public order in Kiev last month, were both fuelled by popular resentment at corruption.

20 March 2014 by Joanna Moorhead

It’s Sunday evening and, once again, we’ve left Mass until the last minute.

20 March 2014 by Peter Stanford

Monday is the anniversary of the murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador, gunned down at the altar on 24 March, 1980, while saying Mass, because he spoke up for the poor and oppressed of his homeland.

20 March 2014 by Robert Mickens

Pope Francis will be celebrating Christmas Mass in Bethlehem on 26 May at the conclusion of his three-day trip to Jordan, Israel and Palestine.

20 March 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

HOW HIGH does a skylark rise?

13 March 2014 by Laurence Freeman

Students of the evolution of consciousness today offer a fascinating map of how we arrived where we are. It began, they say, in episodic consciousness – being intensely attentive to the situation around us.

13 March 2014 by Christopher Howse

“Pope admits stealing”, ran the headline in the Irish Examiner. As everyone has now learnt, Pope Francis stole a little cross from the rosary of a priest he admired as he lay in his coffin (or “casket” as the Examiner called it,...

13 March 2014 by Catherine Pepinster

There is a memorable scene in the American medical drama House in which the eponymous, acerbic doctor of that name, played by Hugh Laurie, is introduced to a Canadian.

13 March 2014 by Robert Mickens

If you’re looking for inspirational reading this Lent, pick up Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium. It’s his vision for renewing the Church and making the Christian faith more vibrant and operative.

13 March 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

If you’ve seen one then you’ll know what I’m talking about. On a warm day in March, maybe your first afternoon without a coat, a flash of brilliant yellow crosses your path.

06 March 2014 by Sara Maitland

I am afraid that I am beginning to find the increasingly regular canonisation of (recently) deceased popes a bit distasteful. It smacks just a little too much of bankers awarding each other massive bonuses.

06 March 2014 by Clifford Longley

The Catholic Church undoubtedly needs a comprehensive renewal of its teaching regarding marriage and family life. So could that necessary renewal be supplied by the so-called Theology of the Body expounded by Pope John Paul II...

06 March 2014 by Robert Mickens

Pope Francis has done it again – he has gone and given another interview to a secular paper! This time it is with Corriere della Sera, arguably Italy’s most authoritative broadsheet. He told its editor he found all the “myth-making” depicting him as “a sort of superman

06 March 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

IS THERE any sound quite like it? The sudden, irrepressible cry of the March lapwing pouring out over a lonely field. Yesterday, there was one pair prospecting over the ­stubble acres, two today.

27 February 2014 by Peter Hennessy

There was an educational moment to savour last month at Westminster. The occasion was a breakfast meeting – not usually a social instrument of choice for me – devoted to the place of arts, humanities and social sciences in the UK

27 February 2014 by Christopher Howse

“Barmy bishop backing benefits bums,” ran the headline in The Sun. The bishop in question was an archbishop on the eve of being made a cardinal, in other words, Vincent Nichols of Westminster.

27 February 2014 by Robert Mickens

If Pope Francis initially had at least some Vatican employees – especially those who are part of the Italian “old guard” – on tenterhooks when he first announced plans last April to make significant structural changes to their workplace...

27 February 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

There's a new grave in Thirkleby churchyard. Under the relaid turves and flowers, freshly turned earth glistens: the black riches of topsoil mixing with the orange clay forked up from a fathom.

20 February 2014 by Clifford Longley

Villages flooded, sea defences damaged by giant waves, fallen trees, power lines cut, army called in – such has been the dramatic news across much of Europe these last few weeks. Not that you would know it from watching British television or reading British newspapers.

20 February 2014 by Peter Stanford

One minute it is just another white coach, sitting at the roadside outside the basilica in suburban Buenos Aires. The next, the driver is busy decking it out with yellow and white advertising hoardings, complete with images of Pope Francis,

20 February 2014 by Robert Mickens

Pope Francis summoned the world’s cardinals to a pre-consistory gathering at the Vatican this past week and urged them to speak frankly about the challenges facing the Church in its ministry to families.

20 February 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

Like some fabled ­monster of the deep, the storm rose in the dark ­caverns of the Atlantic and headed for land. It hit us on the south-west coast, and then roared up the country.

13 February 2014 by Joanna Moorhead

“Breath of fresh air” and “official Catholic Church document” are not phrases that often occupy the same sentence. But all that changed a few days ago when the German bishops’ conference published its summary of responses to the questionnaire floated

13 February 2014 by Christopher Howse

It is not always easy to tell if the puns that the Sun enjoys so much have been stretched too far. “A life-size chocolate version of Pope Francis is unveiled – in Toble-Rome,” it reported next to an alarming picture of the sculpture.

13 February 2014 by Robert Mickens

When Pope Francis announced his initial group of new cardinals on 12 January, the first name on the list of the three men over the age of 80 was Archbishop Loris Francesco Capovilla.

13 February 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

“Mice are obsolete,” the computer store man said. “Computers have built-in track pads now.” Leaving the shops behind we strolled through York’s Museum Gardens.

06 February 2014 by Sara Maitland

Our diocese, like so many others, is facing a catastrophic priest shortage (though, actually, we have very nearly the same ratio of priests to Mass attendances that we did in 1990. Might it be happier and healthier to think that we have too many churches rather than too few priests?).

06 February 2014 by Clifford Longley

A Daily Telegraph columnist informs us that Conservative politicians have been instructed to include the phrase “our plan for economic recovery” in almost everything they say. This replaces the previous mantra they were asked to repeat as often as possible, namely “the mess we inherited”.

06 February 2014 by Robert Mickens

No one has any illusions that Francis of Rome, “Pope of the Poor”, is an expert on finances. Yet, he’s been handed a clear mandate to clean up the financial and organisational mess inside the Vatican.

06 February 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

Can this winter go on much longer? It hasn’t been cold, but grey and very, very wet. Good news from our neck of the woods – the bullfinch barometer is rising.

30 January 2014 by Catherine Pepinster

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor delivered an important message during his homily at the ordination Mass for Mark O’Toole, the new Bishop of Plymouth, on Tuesday.

30 January 2014 by Laurence Freeman

The jazz trumpeter is wearing polka-dot pyjamas and a red jacket. His hair is shaved at the sides and piled high on top with a flourish of stylish yellow. The stage is at the same level as the seated audience in waiting;

30 January 2014 by Christopher Howse

There seems something not entirely healthy in the fascination of the press with the story of the teenage runaways from Stonyhurst. It is the sort of thing that used to provide Sunday morning enjoyment to readers of the News of the World.

30 January 2014 by Peter Hennessy

Why are the London editions of the national newspapers so scant in their coverage of the Scottish question? It’s not as if Scotland is a far-off country of which we know little. If you feel as I do about the possibility of separation, it’s flesh of our flesh.

30 January 2014 by Robert Mickens

One of the principal objectives Blessed John XXIII had in calling the Second Vatican Council, which he did 55 years ago last Saturday, was to pave the way for full communion between the world’s divided Christians.

30 January 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

Sometimes grey days give the clearest views. After a week of incessant rain, a gap suddenly opened up in the clouds. The hills emerged. Vast slanting sunbeams were lowered from the sky like ladders from a giant, slate-roofed hay loft.

23 January 2014 by Clifford Longley

A parish priest in Liverpool once told me about the time he printed a note to be pushed through people’s doors. It said that if anyone was a Catholic but no longer went to Mass, they were welcome to contact the presbytery.

23 January 2014 by Peter Stanford

There has probably never been quite so much contact between independent and state schools as today. In my youth, my direct-grant grammar school was in the same quadrangle of streets as the prestigious fee-paying Birkenhead School.

23 January 2014 by Robert Mickens

During his visit to Sacred Heart Parish next to Rome’s Termini station last Sunday, Pope Francis told young people how they could help him reform the Church. In a closed-door session with youths aged from 16 to 30, his message was clear – “make a ruckus” and don’t be too rigid!

23 January 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

“Aye,” the woman said, joining me at the gate. “She’s the last of her kind. Time was every ­village round here had its winter donkey.” I watched as the patient animal slowly approached. When she was within reach, I stroked her.

16 January 2014 by David Blair

At the western gate of the biggest United Nations base in South Sudan, hundreds of people carrying bundles of possessions push and jostle. Peacekeeping soldiers wearing blue helmets hold them back, forcing them into a queue of sorts.

16 January 2014 by Joanna Moorhead

In my long career as a breastfeeding mother – I had four children across the course of a decade, and fed each until her third birthday – I only ever once decided it was inappropriate to heed my baby’s cries and pop her on the breast.

16 January 2014 by Christopher Howse

The dailies were friendly in their coverage of Archbishop Vincent Nichols’ impending creation as a cardinal. There is no reason why they shouldn’t be.

16 January 2014 by Robert Mickens

Some people were disappointed that Pope Francis did not take bolder action to change significantly the geographic composition of College of Cardinals. Perhaps he will do so in the future or even make significant changes to the college and the conclave process itself.

16 January 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

A puncture on a raw January afternoon. Why did I cycle off the tar road? Hawthorn-lined bridleways running down hills are asking for trouble.

09 January 2014 by Clifford Longley

Reading Alan Greenspan’s reflections on the causes of the financial crash, it becomes obvious that economics is nothing like a science.

09 January 2014 by Sara Maitland

Like most people who live in the country, I get regular invasions of mice. Luckily for me I do not suffer, as some people undeniably do, from real rodent horror, but I am not prepared to share my house with them.

09 January 2014 by Robert Mickens

Shortly after his election last March, Pope Francis met with the top brass and other officials of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.

09 January 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

The red fox, Vulpes vulpes, states the guidebook, is the largest of the true foxes and the most successful.

02 January 2014 by Catherine Pepinster

There can be few people with so much hope riding on them as Pope Francis. Just about everybody – from Time magazine to the Archbishop of Canterbury – made him their person of the year.

02 January 2014 by Laurence Freeman

Some years ago I visited the last synagogue in Cochin, in Kerala on the south coast of India. It was a tourist stop, but there were still a few families worshipping there on the Sabbath, remnants of a once thriving Jewish community.

02 January 2014 by Robert Mickens

A word to the wise: buckle up, because this promises to be a very fast-paced and interesting year of changes at the Vatican.

02 January 2014 by Jonathan Tulloch

With its little cracks and licks, the log fire sings in the hearth. Ferreted out from woods, hedgerow and beck banks, each fallen bough had been carried home from up to a mile away before being sawn.

19 December 2013 by Robert Mickens

This is the first Christmas with Pope Francis, and we journalists will be listening closely to his words and keeping watch for any possible surprise changes he might make to the Vatican’s normal seasonal protocol.

19 December 2013 by Clifford Longley

Man on train sits by window, throwing out bits of paper. Second man says: “Excuse me, why are you doing that?” First man: “To keep the tigers away.” Second man: “What tigers? I see no tigers.” ...

19 December 2013 by Sara Maitland

As it came to an end, I was somewhat ashamed to realise how little impact I had let the Year of Faith have on me.

19 December 2013 by Christopher Howse

Christmas came early in The Guardian this week and it was all peace to people of goodwill. Indeed the paper resembled something from a counterfactual novel, like Kingsley Amis’ The Alteration ...

19 December 2013 by Jonathan Tulloch

Out gathering pine cones, holly and yew boughs for the Christmas decorations, all at once my nostrils were filled with a ripe, rich reek. The smell of the manure rose before me solid as the stone wall of a stable.

12 December 2013 by Peter Hennessy

‘There is an empty hole where Scottish contingency planning should be’

12 December 2013 by Laurence Freeman

In one of his most penetrating mystical sermons, Meister Eckhart, the thirteenth-century Dominican, said: “A wise man said: ‘When all things lay in the midst of silence, then there descended into me from on high, from the royal throne, a secret word.’”

12 December 2013 by Robert Mickens

Time magazine’s selection of Pope Francis as its “Person of the Year” seemed to be a foregone conclusion to many.

12 December 2013 by Jonathan Tulloch

Hearing a roe deer barking in the wood, I waited for it to show.

05 December 2013 by Clifford Longley

What if Cardinal Martini was right? One of the most revered church leaders of his generation, who almost beat Pope Francis as the first Jesuit on the throne of Peter, said in an interview published in German in 2008 that Pope Paul VI was guilty of dishonesty...

05 December 2013 by Robert Mickens

It’s a particularly special month for Pope Francis. He marks the forty-fourth anniversary of his priestly ordination on 13 December and his seventy-seventh birthday four days later.

05 December 2013 by Jonathan Tulloch

You’re never alone. I’d only been among the alders for a minute or so when the robin appeared on a nearby branch.

28 November 2013 by David Blair

In the darkness of a winter morning, the world changed. At 3 a.m. on Sunday in Geneva, my iPhone – and that of countless other journalists awaiting the outcome of the Iran nuclear talks – exploded with tweets announcing that an agreement had been reached.

28 November 2013 by Peter Stanford

Why do we send our children to Catholic schools? Many secularists have very fixed ideas about this, which can be summed up by the words “discipline” and “results”. I feel as though I have spent a lifetime responding, “No, it’s the Catholic ethos,”

28 November 2013 by Robert Mickens

During the Vatican press conference on Tuesday for the unveiling of Pope Francis’ new apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, my colleague Alessandro Speciale tweeted: “Three archbishop-firemen trying to douse the Pope’s words of fire!”

28 November 2013 by Jonathan Tulloch

What was the last thing you saw in a car park? We were in Knaresborough for Uncle Jim’s seventy-fifth birthday and had just squeezed our diminutive Kia Picanto into a space when a large shadow passed overhead.

21 November 2013 by Catherine Pepinster

Certain wags say that the Church of England’s main job is to be a testing ground for the Catholic Church. But with the C of E edging ever closer to having women bishops, we are a very long way from experiments over the role of women edging out of the Anglican lab into the Catholic world.

21 November 2013 by Christopher Howse

At the end of a letter to the Daily Mirror urging action to meet the typhoon disaster in the Philippines, the writer added: “God bless all those affected.”

21 November 2013 by Joanna Moorhead

I see them at Mass on Sundays and, I confess, sometimes feel a pang of envy. They’re what I call the perfect families: a mum, a dad and three or four children, standing shoulder to shoulder to hear the Gospel and recite the Creed. My family, I’m afraid, has never looked like that.

21 November 2013 by Robert Mickens

Pope Francis has received high marks from reform-minded Catholics, especially those who believe many bishops and officials in Rome have reinterpreted the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) in a restrictive way over the past few decades.

14 November 2013 by Sara Maitland

There is something about the whole niqab question that seems to make so many of us stupid – or at least use some utterly separate part of our mind to “think” about it.

14 November 2013 by Clifford Longley

According to Sir John Major, it is “truly shocking” that “the upper echelons of power in 2013 are held overwhelmingly by the privately educated or the affluent middle class” ...

14 November 2013 by Robert Mickens

“With Pope Francis, we are being called to follow the paths laid out by the [Second Vatican] Council and its teachings regarding the Church as communion,” said an enthusiastic Archbishop Bruno Forte.

09 November 2013 by Clifford Longley

The most serious threat to free speech and the public’s “right to know” comes from politicians. This is not a reference to the ongoing row over the post-Leveson regulation of the press, however, but the even more important issue of the freedom of the BBC.

09 November 2013 by Christopher Howse

“She may be a woman, married, a feminist and only 49, but an Irish theologian called Linda Hogan is being tipped as the Vatican’s first lady in red,” said the Irish edition of The Sunday Times. It meant as a cardinal not as the Scarlet Woman. And why not?

09 November 2013 by Robert Mickens

There’s a growing sense that we are witnessing in these days the emergence of a “new” Synod of Bishops.

09 November 2013 by Jonathan Tulloch

November bike riding is not like the salad days of July. No longer does every verge present itself as the perfect chaise longue on which to recline; favourite “dawdling places” have become damp and inhospitable.

02 November 2013 by Peter Hennessy

One of the more regrettable impacts of the 24-hour news cycle over the past 20 years has been on the UK’s electoral cycle. It’s easy to feel as if you are living in a permanent election campaign.

02 November 2013 by David Blair

Prince Bandar bin Sultan has no public profile outside the kingdom of Saudi Arabia – and that is just the way he likes it. This fighter pilot turned diplomat, ambassador, courtier and spymaster is one of the most important power brokers in the Middle East.

02 November 2013 by Laurence Freeman

“What is health?” we were asking. Is it “the level of functional and metabolic efficiency of a living organism free from illness, injury or pain”?

02 November 2013 by Robert Mickens

For the first time in 20 years the Bishop of Rome has returned to his diocese’s most important cemetery to commemorate the Feast of All Souls.

02 November 2013 by Jonathan Tulloch

On the day after the storm, I headed to a favourite oak and began gathering some of the thousands of acorns scattered below the wide spreading arms. Both pockets soon bulging with a wood in the making, I set about planting.

26 October 2013 by Clifford Longley

Pope Francis has asked the International Synod of Bishops to meet in Rome next year to examine, among other things, the Catholic Church’s policy towards divorced Catholics who remarry.

26 October 2013 by Joanna Moorhead

Catriona, my 11-year-old daughter, wants to know how we celebrated Halloween when I was her age. “Where did you go trick or treating?” she asks.

26 October 2013 by Robert Mickens

Pope Francis’ recent video message to Catholics in the Philippines proves that, despite some hesitancy, he certainly can handle a bit of English. Evidently, that’s not the case with German – or, to be more precise, the Germans.

26 October 2013 by Jonathan Tulloch

The rain was soft and gentle, the ground pleasantly yielding, and every few yards we came across stunning fungi.

19 October 2013 by Catherine Pepinster

Bruk lost his home when his landlord decided to re-let his house in time to reap a higher rent from people attending the London Olympics.

19 October 2013 by Peter Stanford

More signs of changing times? I’m one of those shameless authors who is always up for hawking his latest book at literary festivals, a comparatively recent but popular addition to our national cultural scene.

19 October 2013 by Robert Mickens

This week was supposed to mark a major step forward in Pope Francis’ plans to reform the Roman Curia.

19 October 2013 by Jonathan Tulloch

The plan seemed foolproof: one of us climb up and give the tree an almighty shake while the rest stand underneath with a sheet to catch the loosened fruit.

12 October 2013 by Clifford Longley

We live with the remnants of a moral universe that has passed away; we think we have a morality that works, but are deluded. These are the key ideas of one of the seminal books of philosophy of the late twentieth century, After Virtue by Alasdair MacIntyre.

12 October 2013 by Christopher Howse

Ralph Miliband, the late father of Ed Miliband, the leader of the Labour Party, was “The man who hated Britain”, or so said a headline on a Saturday essay in the Daily Mail.

12 October 2013 by Sara Maitland

Last week I had another email from someone looking for a hermitage. I do not have an overwhelming number of such letters, but since I published A Book of Silence in 2008, and especially since I have been writing this column, I have received a small but steady trickle.

12 October 2013 by Robert Mickens

It might sound incredible, but this was the first time in his life that Pope Francis had been to Assisi.

05 October 2013 by Robert Mickens

Pope Francis’ newly named Council of Cardinals is clearly a work in progress. After holding its first meeting in the papal library of the Apostolic Palace, the venue for the other five sessions was switched to a parlour at the Domus Sanctae Marthae...

05 October 2013 by David Blair

And yet it was built in Nairobi, a city that, until quite recently, possessed only a handful of supermarkets. The last time al-Qaeda struck Kenya’s capital was in 1998 when it bombed the United States embassy.

05 October 2013 by Peter Hennessy

Did the subsequent vote in the House of Commons and the opinion polls reflect a wish on the part of the British to have a rest for a while from the wider globe or will the events of August 2013 prove to be a benchmark ...

05 October 2013 by Laurence Freeman

Yet as you looked at the satellite pictures and saw the dense swirl of cloud from the safety of space, it was hard not to give it an identity; hurricanes and typhoons are now given alternately male and female names by meteorologists.

05 October 2013 by Jonathan Tulloch

For years it’s baffled me, this short ribbon of road. Emerging from a green corridor of overhanging hazels, it threads a secluded dale, travelling from precisely nowhere to nowhere, my favourite destinations.