- ‘Do you hear the cry of the poor?’
The fate of millions of people in this war-ravaged corner of East Africa depends on an uncertain peace agreement signed this week. A former British government minister, just back from visiting refugee projects in the area, assesses the country’s prospects
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- Former Apostolic Nuncio to Dominican Republic Wesolowski dies inside the Vatican
- Catholics more liberal than Protestants over same-sex marriage
- New Dow Jones 'socially responsible' index announced to guide Catholic investors
- Fall in number of Catholic MPs in the House of Commons ahead of landmark debate on assisted dying
- What does Paul mean by 'wives, submit to your husbands'? Nicholas King SJ
- Time for one-day migrant strike Paul Donovan
- Why are the Kenyan bishops being so difficult about vaccine campaigns? Maureen Duggan MD FRCPCH Sheffield
From the editor's desk
The political response to what is undoubtedly the biggest European refugee crisis since the Second World War has been lamentable. Only Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, with France’s François Hollande somewhat hesitantly by her side, has shown a real grasp of the issues.
Following the announcement in June that Heythrop College was to be closed in three years’ time, the view has started to crystallise that it is too important an institution to be allowed to go without a fight, and a rescue operation needs to be attempted.
If anybody ever doubted the necessity for an independent review into child protection procedures inside the Catholic Church in Scotland, every page of the McLellan Report published this week will correct that impression.
There will be twice as many women in British universities as there are men in 20 years’ time, if present trends continue. The latest figures following this year’s A-level results show that of the 409,000 admissions to university places
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has publicly applauded the BBC’s decision to record an edition of its popular Sunday religious programme, Songs of Praise, from the notorious refugee camp in Calais known as “the jungle”.
Last weekend was the seventieth anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, marked, as in Hiroshima a few days before, by solemn ceremonies of remembrance and sorrow.
The international trafficking of women has to be resisted at every level. It is all the more disturbing, therefore, that one of the world’s premier human rights organisations, Amnesty International, is under pressure to adopt policies likely to lead to more trafficking, not less.
Events will soon show whether the extraordinary rise of Jeremy Corbyn, Labour MP for Islington North in London, represents a bout of midsummer madness or a lasting shift to the Left in and beyond the Labour Party. He has become the star turn of the Labour leadership contest, outshining the other three candidates by several kilowatts.
There is no trickier problem facing the Home Secretary, Theresa May, than Calais. The French port nearest to England has seen daily and nightly battles between would-be illegal immigrants laying siege to the entrance to the Channel Tunnel and the French authorities, including riot police, trying to protect it.
Can Pope Francis hold the Catholic Church together on the issue of homosexuality? A group of leading African bishops has already begun to organise itself to fight changes to the traditional Catholic stance, which regards the homosexual condition as “disordered” and homosexual acts as gravely sinful.
That the British welfare state needs some fundamental modification seems to be common ground across the political spectrum. The crucial question is how to make changes that carry consent. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in an article in The Guardian this week, appealed for cross-party consensus on what needed doing.
Two counter-narratives are developing in the Catholic Church designed to neutralise some of the more trenchant teachings of Pope Francis. He will run into both of them when he visits the United States in September. One of them, concerning climate change, he will already have heard from the lips of Cardinal George Pell, the Australian who heads the Vatican’s financial machinery.
Adressing the European Parliament last November, Pope Francis issued a dire warning based on a fresco by Raphael in the Vatican. Depicting the “School of Athens”, it shows the two ancient Greek sages, Plato and Aristotle, with the former pointing upwards, and the latter, outwards.
Sectarian tension between the two mainstream versions of Islam – Sunni and Shia – is one of the enduring threats to world peace.
When three retired bishops write to The Tablet to support the case for ordaining married men in the Catholic Church, it is clear something is stirring in the undergrowth. It seems retirement has given them the freedom to say things they would have hesitated to say while still in post; it is likely that other bishops, not yet retired, are having similar thoughts.
Economies expand when consumers have money to spend; when they do not, economies shrink. That is an economic truth clearly grasped by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but appears to be missing from the mental toolkit of those negotiating with the Greek Government. This contrast may even explain why George Osborne’s recent comments...
For John Henry Newman, the ideal university was a community of thinkers engaged in study for the sake of it. In his 1852 series of lectures on The Idea of a University, England’s most notable Catholic intellectual rejected the idea of a restricted vocational education.
In a sense the Tunisian gunman Seifeddine Rezgui was Everyman. He was not known to be a particularly devout Muslim; an internet video shows this healthy young engineering student demonstrating his break-dancing; he wore a Real Madrid shirt. Yet he has murdered 38 innocent holidaymakers of whom at least 30 are thought to be British.
In October the synod of bishops is due to resume its search for a consensus on such contentious issues as homosexuality and remarriage after divorce. The preliminary document published this week, the Instrumentum Laboris, offers a serious analysis of the problems facing marriage and family life.
The Government has made it clear that it is serious about its intention to cut £12 billion from the welfare budget, as part of its grand strategy of deficit reduction allied to tax cuts. When the figure was included in the Conservative Party’s pre-election policy proposals, it was widely assumed to be an opening position ...
When it became known that Pope Francis was writing the first papal encyclical ever to concentrate on environmental issues, the natural question to ask was what did this have to do with the Catholic Church.
For a long time there has been unease in the Church that some bishops who have been culpably negligent in failing to report abusive priests to the civil authorities have not had to face a reckoning. Pope Francis has now decided, on the advice of his Council of Cardinals, that Catholic bishops ...
The moral case for the European Union is that it enables the nations of Europe to stand together to build peace and prosperity across the continent. Once Britain embarks on the renegotiation of the terms of its membership, leading to a referendum next year or the year after, it will be easy ...
One stated aim of Pope Francis’ papacy is to open up seemingly closed questions in the sensitive areas of marriage, sexuality and family life. Halfway between last autumn’s synod in Rome and the second one due to be held this October, none of the questions look like being answered.
The tragic and untimely death of Charles Kennedy, former leader of the Liberal Democrat Party, has been vying for headline space in the British media this week with the deserved and none-to-soon fall from grace of Sepp Blatter, head of the Fédération Internationale de Football Associations (Fifa).
By a large majority, the people of Ireland have voted to allow the legal recognition of marriage between same-sex partners. This is a blow to the institutional Catholic Church, which fought tooth and nail to preserve the traditional definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman.
There were several measures outlined in this week’s Queen’s Speech, such as a promised increase in house building, which may improve the quality of life of hard-pressed sections of the population. But a sword of Damocles continues to hang over the poorest, in the form of the still unspecified cuts to the welfare budget.
The beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero is a watershed moment in the recovery of a fundamental truth. The key question that Romero’s life and death asks of the faithful everywhere is whether the Christian duty to evangelise and the Christian calling to be holy are inseparable from the Christian duty to work for a better world by opposing exploitation and injustice.
Atul Gawande, the doctor and Harvard professor who gave this year’s BBC Reith Lectures, has spoken powerfully of what he calls “the problem of hubris” – the medical profession’s insistence that doctors must always have a treatment to offer their patients even when they are entering their final days. The professional focus on recovery sees death as a failure.
It was politically courageous of David Cameron, in the middle of an election campaign where controlling immigration was a key issue, to order the Royal Navy into action alongside the Italians and others to rescue migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean from Africa to Europe.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols inserted a subtle dig at the Tory Party’s “One Nation” conscience in his congratulatory message to the Prime Minister after last week’s general election victory. Not least of the challenges he faced, the cardinal told David Cameron, was that of “encouraging and sustaining economic growth and...
At the end of each general election, the United Kingdom is governed by arithmetic. If one party has more Members of Parliament than all the others added together, it forms the next Government.
This could be the year that humanity at last recognises its responsibility to keep Planet Earth habitable as a safe home for all its creatures. Industrialisation allied to population growth has resulted in the pollution...
No party may emerge from next Thursday’s British general election with a majority of MPs in the new House of Commons. The one with the largest number may first try to form a coalition or minority government, with the aid of the smaller parties.
The Synod of Bishops on the Family in the autumn is to discuss some of the most contentious and contested issues in modern theology, and it is hard to see how the Church can emerge without damage to its unity.
Leaders of the European Union, including the British Government, must bear direct responsibility for the appalling loss of life at sea in recent weeks, including almost 1,000 drowned last weekend, following their decision to withdraw a comprehensive air-sea rescue service in the Mediterranean that saved many lives last year.
Admittedly, the Catholic population of France is somewhat larger than the Catholic population of England and Wales. But that cannot entirely explain why a consultation among the French laity regarding the Church’s approach on matters marital and sexual produced 10,000 responses, whereas the consultation on the same topics...
The Scottish Catholic bishops have again raised the possession of nuclear weapons as a grave moral issue, which it undoubtedly is. It is also a complex one. The point of possessing nuclear weapons is to enable a nation to threaten to do unimaginable harm to large numbers of citizens of another country.
Marriage, to the secular mind, is an invention of the state which can be amended. So if a majority think laws should not discriminate, for instance on the basis of sexual orientation, than the case for opening marriage up to same-sex couples is unanswerable. This is the dilemma that the Catholic Church...
Westminster politics is moving into uncharted territory. Opinion polls are predicting that the Scottish National Party (SNP) may gain enough seats in the forthcoming general election to hold the balance of power in a House of Commons where, the polls predict, no party may have a majority.
Holy Week this year, like the first Good Friday, was particularly cruel. The agony of families whose sons and daughters were studying at Garissa University, Kenya, has been witnessed across the world: 142 students and six security personnel were slaughtered on Maundy Thursday as Islamist terrorists,
The primary Christian response to the problem of evil and the human suffering it causes is not to spiritualise it, attribute it to fate or explain it as punishment, but to declare that God suffers too, both in the historic event of the Crucifixion and in all human experiences of pain, anguish, abandonment and grief.
Aeschylus, the Greek dramatist, observed that “truth is the first casualty of war.” He could have added “and of politics”. The General Election campaign has begun with a demonstration of this in action. The two major parties have each launched their pre-election barrage with interpretations of their main opponent’s policies
The stripping by Pope Francis of Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s rights and privileges of his office, coupled with an admission by his successor Archbishop Leo Cushley that his behaviour had made the Catholic Church in Scotland “less credible”, might not be enough, sadly, to bury this sorry affair and let healing begin.
Rarely has there been so much uncertainty about Britain’s political future or such a lack of confidence in the democratic process. The polls show that the two major parties are level, as various smaller parties jockey to maximise their influence. The serious degree of political disillusionment among the public may ...
Condemning the latest atrocity against Christians in Pakistan, Pope Francis went a step further than earlier expressions of horror and solidarity, heartfelt as those have been. He referred at last Sunday’s Angelus to the suicidal attack in Lahore that day, killing 15 Catholics and Anglicans at their neighbouring places of worship, as “persecution of Christians
The announcement of another large fall in unemployment in Britain – at a rate of 5.7 per cent, the lowest in Europe – gave the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, a very favourable launch platform for his Budget statement this week. Unemployment is a great social evil. Mr Osborne is entitled to all due credit for this achievement even ...
The row over defence spending may not make or break the Conservatives at the next election, but it could make or break Britain’s place in the world. Military capability is not just about defending the interests of one nation-state should it be threatened by another. It is about taking Britain’s share of responsibility for an ordered and peaceful world governed by international law.
Gerald O’Collins’ persuasive plea in The Tablet last week will warm the hearts of the faithful. His letter to bishops of the English-speaking world asks them to adopt the 1998 English translation of the Mass as an officially approved version. That would be an infinitely better alternative to the version that the Vatican commissioned and imposed in 2011. The latter has not bedded down with time...
Cardinal George Pell was never the most popular man in Australia, not even among his fellow bishops – which means it was extraordinarily shrewd of Pope Francis to put him in charge of the Vatican’s finances. They were in such a mess, and in such a need of a shake-up, that only somebody prepared to tread on toes and who was not too bothered about being popular would be equal to the pressure.
Immigration remains one of the public’s prime concerns in the run-up to the general election, reinforced by the latest figures which show it to be running at a higher rate – nearly 300,000 a year – than at any time since the 2010 general election. This has gravely embarrassed the Conservative Party because it foolishly promised that by about this time the figure would be limited to below 100,000.
In the third of her reflections for Lent, Joan Chittister suggests that we have a ‘spiritual reflex’ in us that recoils from corruption and injustice
One of the most frequent complaints about politicians from a disgruntled public is that “they are only in it for themselves”. It is disappointing to see that suspicion apparently confirmed by the actions of two of the hitherto most highly regarded Members of Parliament, Malcolm Rifkind, Conservative MP for Kensington, London, and Jack Straw, Labour MP for Blackburn, Lancashire.
As Britain drifts towards being an ever more secular society, the interests of religion and the concerns of the religiously minded are likely to appear to the majority as unimportant and hard to fathom. It is this indifference and incomprehension, rather than overt hostility, which leads local government officials in South Wales,...
The bishops of the Church of England are entirely right to say that the general election campaign this year lacks any sense of vision for the future of Britain. Their pre-election statement entitled “Who is my Neighbour?” exposes the moral bankruptcy of modern politics and pleads for something better and more noble, to reverse the trend of cynicism and selfish individualism, and restore a sense of engagement, community and public service.
Greece’s continuing crisis in its relations with the European Union is clear proof, if any were needed, that there has been something fundamentally wrong with the architecture of the common currency ever since the euro was adopted in 1999. It was assumed that monetary union, which now applies to 19 of the EU’s 28 members, could work smoothly without the need for political union.
Up to 400 refugees have died in the Mediterranean already this year, vastly more than the total by this time last year. The latest tragedy, referred to by Pope Francis in his Wednesday address to pilgrims in St Peter’s Square, happened when four rubber dinghies overturned on their journey from North Africa to the Italian island of Lampedusa.
A series of scandals has further undermined public confidence in the financial sector, which was already damaged by the role banks played in triggering the economic crisis in 2008. The latest concerns systematic tax evasion allegedly organised and promoted by HSBC, Britain’s biggest bank.
Is standing alongside the poor even at risk of your life an essential part of the Catholic faith? Archbishop Oscar Romero thought so. He was shot dead by a government hit squad while saying Mass in San Salvador in 1980.
On a free vote, the House of Common has given its overwhelming support for the use of new medical techniques to prevent certain genetic disorders. These techniques involve the transfer of healthy DNA from a third party – hence the misleading phrase “three-parent babies” – to replace damaged DNA in a human egg or embryo.
With the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity just past, it is timely to rejoice that relations between the two major denominations in Britain have never been better, marked at the top by the sincere friendship between Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The situation in Greece was likened in the Financial Times to someone being held in a Victorian debtors’ prison and detained until they paid their debts, with no way of earning enough to do so. The Greek public has finally rebelled against this unkind fate, ...
Last summer the population of the Philippines reached 100 million. It already had one of the highest birth rates in the world and also suffers an appalling degree of poverty. In December 2012, against the wishes of the Catholic bishops in the Philippines ...
This year’s World Economic Forum in Davos kicked off with the striking claim by the charity Oxfam that the richest one per cent of the world’s population owns almost half the world’s total wealth. And its share was growing; inequality was becoming worse.
The cold-blooded assassination of eight members of the staff of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, and the related murders and hostage-taking at a Paris kosher supermarket, triggered a wave of revulsion that the world has rarely seen before. On Sunday, Paris witnessed the largest public demonstration in its history as well over a million people poured on to the streets to proclaim “Je suis Charlie”.
More than half the 270,000 Jewish population of Britain believe they have no future in the country and a quarter are contemplating moving away, according to the latest survey. The majority believe anti-Semitism is on the rise, though a poll two years ago by the European Union found British Jews less aware of it than in seven other countries, including France and Italy.
France’s worst terrorist attack for half a century, which cost the lives of a dozen people, has rightly been condemned as a frontal attack on freedom of speech. The satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, had just published a cartoon of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the jihadist group, Islamic State.
The naming of 20 new cardinals from 18 nations is another sign that Pope Francis is rebalancing the internal dynamics of the Catholic Church. Popes do not pick their successors even when a vacancy arises from resignation, as in the case of Pope Benedict XVI. But they do pick a lot of those who will.
The fierce South Atlantic storm that blew in with the election of Pope Francis in February 2013 continues to rattle doors and windows in the Vatican and shows no sign of abating. In a pre-Christmas address to the chief personnel of the Curia, Francis listed the various ailments with which he said they could be afflicted, including “spiritual Alzheimer’s” and “existential schizophrenia”.
The Vatican’s mainly favourable report on the state of female religious orders in the United States suggests a significant change of tack under the influence of Pope Francis. The American Catholic Church has sometimes displayed itself as a house divided – between those working for social justice
A mass murder of schoolchildren in Peshawar, northern Pakistan, has shocked and stunned a country already too familiar with terrorist atrocities. It has sent a warning round the world that jihadism, violence falsely justified in the name of Islam, is now the greatest single threat to world peace.
At the Wednesday audience this week, Pope Francis began a series of highly significant talks on family life, in preparation for next autumn’s synod of bishops. This coincides with the publication of its preliminary documents, the lineamenta; and follows last autumn’s specially convened synod meeting when challenges were made to established Catholic teaching and practice
There is a serious food crisis in Britain this Christmas, with people going hungry in the world’s sixth-largest economy. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, wrote recently of his shock at discovering cases of poverty in Britain that reminded him of conditions in parts of Africa. It is less than a year since Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, ...
Slavery and people-trafficking have always been closely linked. This is the logic that impels the British Home Office, responsible for policing the United Kingdom’s borders, and the Catholic Church, present in states from where slaves come as well as to where they are sent, to combine their efforts to stamp out this evil trade.
Heythrop College, part of the University of London, has traditionally been a centre of intellectual excellence whose demise would be a heavy blow both to the Catholic Church and to English academic life. Largely as a result of falling student enrolments, it has become such a drain on its principal financial supporter, the Society of Jesus,...
When Pope Francis berated the European Union this week for having lost its vision, he was pushing buttons in all its 28 member states. The EU has become mired in a bureaucratic and technocratic style of governance, giving “a general impression of weariness and ageing, of a Europe that is no longer fertile and vibrant”, he told a special meeting of the European Parliament.
The shooting dead of a young black man by a white policeman provokes protests and rioting, amid accusations of police racism. In 2011 it happened in London, then spread elsewhere. It has happened this year in Ferguson, Missouri, and protests have spread to other American cities. The latest American outbreak followed a decision not to indict the policeman involved for murder, and the evidence ...
People cannot make good democratic decisions on the basis of misinformation. This issue has long bedevilled the debate over immigration, where surveys find that the average person grossly over-estimates the number of people living in Britain but born abroad.
This week, the General Synod of the Church of England has finally made the ordination of women bishops its official policy. The first women bishops can be expected in a matter of months or less. Why is it then that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in Rome ...
It is estimated that one in 10 priests in diocesan ministry in the Catholic Church in England and Wales began his priestly vocation in the Church of England. Many of them are married. This is very relevant to the question increasingly being raised about the compulsory celibacy of the Catholic priesthood – compulsory except for former Anglican clergy, who are given a dispensation.
Far from diminishing, the national appetite for remembrance seems to grow. The centenary of the start of the First World War was always likely to be special. But public responses have far exceeded expectations. Nothing has displayed that better than the extraordinary artwork created at the Tower of London, and the size of the solemn crowds it has drawn.
The Prince of Wales has a good reputation in the Islamic world, in both Britain and the Middle East. So his urgent call for “faith leaders” to speak up against religious persecution deserves to be heeded in the right quarters. Whether it will be, particularly in areas where the persecution is most intense, is another matter.
Ann Maguire, the much-loved Leeds teacher murdered in front of her class, would be the last to agree that her killer, then aged 15, should be dismissed as irredeemable. Her reputation was that she never gave up on any teenager, however wayward. What we know of him, however, puts him at the extreme edge of abnormality.
The plight of refugees trying to reach southern Europe in open boats is already horrendous. But the European Union, with full British support, wants to make it worse. It has made the shocking and shameful decision to let the Italian navy close down its search-and-rescue operation in the Mediterranean without replacing it with something equally effective.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has made few contributions to the life of the Church since his retirement, preferring instead to “watch and pray”. But he has just issued one lengthy reflection on the dangers of relativism, which because of its rarity as well as its revisiting of old themes, deserves more attention than it has attracted so far.
The Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in Rome ended with a superb exposition of Catholic teaching on marriage and family life by Pope Francis, which rightly received a standing ovation. That was a much clearer demonstration of a consensus around fundamental principles than the voting on the various clauses of the final report.
Nigel Farage, the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (Ukip), has called the forthcoming by-election in Rochester and Strood “the most important for 30 years”. He has a point. The then Conservative candidate, Mark Reckless, won this Kent parliamentary constituency by nearly 10,000 votes in 2010, and the by-election ...
True to its name, the synod of bishops in Rome has been extraordinary. By this weekend, the meeting of senior church leaders in Rome will be reaching its end, but whatever happens, things can never be the same. What has been said cannot be unsaid.
Industrial action by staff in the National Health Service this week sends two stark warning messages to the Government. The first concerns low pay. Even with inflation falling, wage rates have not kept pace and large swathes ...
Ebola is a nightmare disease. In countries with few healthcare workers, their number has been further reduced because some of those caring for Ebola sufferers have caught the disease and died. Even before the disease arrived, the two countries worst affected, Sierra Leone and Liberia, had health services ranging from poor to non-existent.
Tablet readers have been generous in their praise of the pastoral gifts of Kieran Conry, who has resigned as Bishop of Arundel and Brighton after admitting sexual misconduct. But there has to be a balance. Such behaviour can cause great distress and lasting emotional damage to the people immediately involved.
At least in the West, expectations are high that the extraordinary synod of bishops which Pope Francis will open in Rome tomorrow will move the Catholic Church in a more liberal direction on a range of issues, not least regarding divorce and remarriage.
The Catholic Church normally prefers an image of serene and seamless unity, where decisions are reached at the top by prayerful consensus. The current situation is shockingly different. It seems even the Pope’s closest advisers are happy to conduct their disputes in public.
World leaders gathered in New York this week had to face two serious challenges to the well-being of the people of this planet, especially its poorest and most disadvantaged members – climate change, and jihadist terrorism in the name of Islam.
Climate change often means less rainfall. Less rainfall often means crop failure. And that is when people starve. This was the warning given by Archbishop Zacchaeus Okoth, chairman of the Kenya bishops’ conference’s Justice and Peace commission,...
Smiling Pope Francis has brought about a vast change in the way the Catholic Church is regarded by its ordinary members. He has made it seem not just fit for human habitation, but warm and welcoming.
If Westminster politicians thought that an earthquake in Scotland would leave the political foundations intact south of the border, they were fooling themselves. They have realised rather late that ties that bind nations are often more tenuous than they appear.
Profound and probably irreversible changes in the relationships between Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland are a prospect to be welcomed, whatever the actual result of the referendum on Scottish independence next Thursday.
There has been no indication of a split in the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales regarding the forthcoming extraordinary synod in Rome.
A writer in The New York Times, reacting to the horrific execution of a second American journalist by Islamic jihadists, remarked “Isis is awful, but it is not a threat to America’s homeland.” Nobody could say that about Britain.
The heart-rending and in many ways heart-warming story of little Ashya King illustrates a weakness in the way public authorities view parental rights. Ashya, who is five, had an operation for a brain tumour and was kept in hospital while further treatment was arranged.
Public outrage at the full extent of child abuse in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, is heightened by the knowledge that so far no public official has been called to account over the affair. Once again, institutions with a duty to protect children have given greater priority to protecting themselves.
In most armed conflicts in the world, the objectives of each side are reasonably clear. In eastern Ukraine, however, they could not be more confused. In the area of its common frontier, Russia has tried hard to provoke and support an insurrection by so-called separatists. Unlike what happened in Crimea, this does not look like a simple grab for territory.
The Prime Minister’s promise that in future all government policies would be scrutinised for their effects on family life would deserve three hearty cheers if this was the start of his administration. But coming almost at the end, it will strike many people as a little hollow.
At the heart of British policy towards refugees is a contradiction that was tragically illustrated by the discovery of the contents of a sealed shipping container at Tilbury Docks, newly arrived from Belgium. It contained 34 Sikhs fleeing persecution in Afghanistan – and the body of one who died on the way.
There has been widespread criticism, entirely justified, of the British Government’s timid and complacent response to the unfolding humanitarian crisis in northern Iraq. This is not to question the bravery of RAF air crew flying missions to drop supplies to the tens of thousands of Yazidi refugees trapped ...
An Australian couple paid a woman living in Thailand to bear a child for them. In fact she gave birth to twins, one of whom had Down’s syndrome. That child is still with the mother who bore him while the Australian woman has the child’s sibling. This much is agreed: almost all the other facts of the case are disputed.
The resignation from ministerial office of Baroness (Sayeeda) Warsi has opened up cracks inside Government regarding both its attitude to Israel’s actions in Gaza, and more broadly. She told David Cameron that his Government’s failure to condemn Israel was “morally indefensible”, not least because of the high civilian death toll among Palestinians, including a large number of children, ...
Opinion polls suggest that the number of Scottish electors who will vote for independence in next month’s referendum falls some way short of a majority. Though the gap between the two sides has closed a little in recent weeks, it still stands at 54 per cent to 40 in favour of remaining in the United Kingdom. Independence campaigners had been hoping that this week’s television debate ...
Church services are being held all over Europe to commemorate the outbreak of the First World War. For instance, each of the Catholic bishops of England and Wales has pledged himself to say a Requiem Mass for the souls of the departed and for peace, to mark this and other key anniversaries of the four-year conflict.
Israeli action in Gaza, however justified at the outset, has crossed the line and is proving intolerable to the international community. The death toll of innocent lives, many of them children, cannot be explained or excused. The fact that Hamas’ conduct – firing rockets towards Israeli towns and infiltrating individual terrorists into Israeli territory through tunnels – is outrageous, immoral and appalling, cannot justify Israel acting likewise.
David Cameron caused consternation among the secular intelligentsia in 2011 when he declared, in a speech to a church audience, “We are a Christian country and we should not be afraid to say so.” The evidence that was subsequently much argued over related almost wholly to domestic policy and the state of public opinion in Britain.
Few things could be more civilised than life aboard a long-haul airliner: entertainment on tap, food when required, attentive cabin staff, the latest technology to ensure safety and comfort, and all amid the beauty of the sun-split clouds. It is this that makes the sudden disintegration of an aircraft such as MH17, in an instant of extreme violence and bloodshed, ...
The vote by the Church of England’s governing body to allow women to be ordained as bishops is historic and dramatic, even if it was the logical consequence of the decision by the same body to ordain women as priests made in 1992.
It is the first duty of any government to defend its citizens against external attack, a principle Israel is entitled to invoke to justify its operations against Hamas in Gaza. Had the IRA started bombarding Wales with rockets across the Irish Sea in the 1970s, Britain would have been bound to react.
The purpose of official inquiries into cover-ups is to uncover them. The clear risk that the Government is running with the inquiry to be headed by Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss arises from the fact that the subject matter is an alleged cover-up of child sex abuse at the heart of the British Establishment.
René Bruelhart, the man brought in by Benedict XVI to run the Vatican’s newly formed anti-money-laundering Financial Information Authority, was frank in assessing the Catholic Church’s task during a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal.
The involvement of celebrities in the sexual abuse of young people raises fundamental issues for modern society. Rolf Harris is the latest example, and the extent of the Jimmy Savile scandal continues to grow alarmingly. These issues are not just about child protection, vital though that is, but about the whole sexual culture.
Shortly after his appointment last year, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby described Catholic Social Teaching as “one of the greatest treasures that the Churches globally have to offer”, sentiments he has since repeated. Nearly 20 years ago, under Archbishop George Carey, the Church of England gave a warm reception to the statement ...
Reacting to the jailing of three al-Jazeera journalists in Egypt and the sentencing in absentia of several others, Foreign Secretary William Hague rightly observed: “Freedom of the press is a cornerstone of a stable and prosperous society.” Press freedom is a value that needs to be defended by everyone, for it is exercised on behalf of everyone.
The United Kingdom Supreme Court has this week nicely set the stage for a battle royal over the so-called “right to die” when a new Assisted Dying Bill is debated in three weeks’ time. The court said that the choices raised by the appeals before them were more appropriate for Parliament, as they involved moral rather than legal judgements which ought to reflect public opinion.
The speed with which the conflagration in Syria has spread to Iraq in the last two weeks has stunned the whole Middle East and caused consternation in capitals virtually everywhere. The insurgent army known as Isis – the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – has behaved with total ruthlessness in the swathes of Iraqi territory it has seized since it launched its attack ...
It is clear from their recent meeting that the Archbishop of Canterbury and Pope Francis have a warm personal relationship. It is equally clear that the Anglican Communion led by Archbishop Justin Welby and the Roman Catholic Church led by Pope Francis have much more in common than divides them – common strengths, common problems, even to a large extent a common vision.
Some scepticism is in order regarding the claim that the controversy surrounding a small group of schools in Birmingham is just about Muslim extremism. It obscures the fact that this is rather more a crisis in the Government's reform of the state school system in England.
The Catholic Church in the United States of America badly needs a dose of unity. Yet there are signs that since the election of Pope Francis last year, tensions within the Catholic community have increased.
Southern Europe this year faces a serious and growing refugee crisis, of that there is no doubt. No doubt, either, that this is the responsibility of the whole continent, not just Greece, Italy and Spain.
The life of the present British Government began with two constitutional innovations, political chickens which would sooner or later come home to roost – a formal coalition between two parties, and a fixed-term Parliament.
Pope Francis has demonstrated once again that he has an intuitive grasp of the power of symbolism. During his visit to the Middle East, the picture of him touching and praying at the notorious security wall that divides Palestinians from Israel went round the world.
With some important exceptions, the consistent pattern of the results in the European Union’s parliamentary elections was the rise of right-wing parties that stand outside the consensus of conventional European politics.
The Catholic bishops of England and Wales have defended the right of gay Catholics to remain in civil partnerships. They have told the Government that the abolition of civil partnerships by their automatic conversion into same-sex marriages “could cause great harm to lesbian and gay Catholics”.
When Mark Carney negotiated his salary for taking on the role of Governor of the Bank of England, he not only secured a basic annual wage packet of £624,000 but also an additional housing allowance of £5,000 a week, funded by taxpayers, while his wife Diana bemoaned the lack of suitable accommodation in London when the couple moved to the UK from Canada last year.
Due to population shifts, a Catholic primary school in Blackburn has found itself with 99 per cent of pupils who are Muslim, a phenomenon by no means unique in modern Britain. The unusual solution promoted by the diocesan authorities in Salford is the transfer of the school to the Church of England.
A close race is more exciting than a walkover, so the local council and European Parliament elections less than a week away are attracting more interest than usual. Unfortunately this is for all the wrong reasons. Opinion polls show Labour and the United Kingdom Independence Party (Ukip) neck and neck on the final bend when people are asked how they might vote in the European elections
Once again the Catholic Church has had to endure a public scolding by a United Nations agency arising from the sexual abuse of children by clergy, and once again has responded with a tone of hurt innocence. These confrontations are both embarrassing and unproductive, and add little to the actual safeguarding of children.
What are prisons for? And what is literature for? High-minded Victorians would probably have given the same answer in each case: they exist to make bad people good and good people better. It is evidently a point lost on the Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, whom no one would accuse of high-mindedness despite his grammar-school and Cambridge education.
Tragedy or disaster can be like a flash of lightning, illuminating human nature in the raw, all unprepared. The sight suddenly revealed can be profoundly shocking, as in the behaviour of the captain of the South Korean ferry who failed, when it started to sink, to put the interests of its young passengers before his own.
Pope Francis continues to drop hints about the possibilities of “development” in the Catholic Church’s treatment of divorce. He is reported to have telephoned an Argentine divorcee who had written to him after being told she could not receive Holy Communion: he assured her, she said afterwards, that she could.
There is little doubt that the two most outstanding Popes of the past 100 years were John XXIII and John Paul II, both due to be canonised tomorrow.
It was easy to see last weekend why politicians are not eager to “do God” – to use a phrase made famous by Tony Blair’s former adviser Alastair Campbell.
The history of the People of God as told in the Old Testament is a sequence of stumbles. As the Children of Israel slowly fused into the Jewish nation, they repeatedly fell short of the fidelity to the one God that Moses had committed them to.
In Ukraine, the crisis is a complex one, but some things are beyond argument. Western intelligence has published clear evidence that tens of thousands of Russian troops and their equipment have been sent to territory bordering Ukraine.
There has never been anything quite like the collaboration now taking shape between the British Government and the police on the one hand and the Catholic Church on the other, to fight that most odious of modern evils, people trafficking.
Issues surrounding the resignation of Maria Miller as Culture Secretary go to the heart of the modern political crisis. It is a crisis of confidence and of credibility: confidence because people – not just in Britain but all over the world – have more or less stopped trusting politicians as a breed,
L’état, c’est moi may never have been uttered by Louis XIV or indeed anyone, but it still carries a certain truth. When Queen Elizabeth II visits Italy this week and pays an informal call on Pope Francis in the Vatican, just as when President Michael Higgins of Ireland visits her more formally during his state visit to London on Tuesday, they will be more than mere private individuals.
The darkness that Scripture says was one of the 10 plagues with which Egypt was assailed has been attributed to ancient dust storms in the Sahara desert. The same non-miraculous explanation is being offered by meteorologists for the fine dust that has been polluting the atmosphere across parts of Europe including Britain this week, causing a visible haze.
For a Pope who has hardly put a step wrong since his election, the issue of child abuse and how the Church handles it was becoming a worrying exception. But now his wisdom in appointing a council of eight cardinals to advise him has come into its own.
The story of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, now deemed to have crashed in the vastness of the southern Indian Ocean, has few parallels. Even the Titanic disaster consisted of imaginable horrors with obvious causes.
Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth has argued that Catholic parliamentarians who voted in favour of gay marriage should be barred from receiving Holy Communion.
The 2014 Budget was certainly good news for George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. His tone in the House of Commons on Wednesday was at times almost jubilant, as was his message.
A peculiar crisis has overtaken the Co-operative movement. This group of businesses based on co-operative principles – which means they are owned by their customers – lost its way when it bought the troubled Britannia Building Society, ...
The refusal of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales to publish its summary of the responses to the lineamenta consultation on the issues surrounding family life has blighted discussion on issues that need to be talked about.
Cardinal Bergoglio’s adoption of the name Francis on his election as Pope a year ago this coming week has had various interpretations, mostly associated with his desire for the Church to be of, and for, the poor.
The Ukrainian crisis ought to be capable of solution. The fundamental principle is that of self-determination, enshrined in the United Nations Charter and in international law.
In his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis offered the pastors of the Catholic Church guidance on how to interpret traditional teaching concerning marriage and family life.
Affronts to the dignity of a major power by events in a lesser neighbour can have disastrous consequences.
The Archbishop of Westminster – who becomes a cardinal at a ceremony in Rome today – propelled himself on to centre stage in a national debate about welfare reform this week, causing a political storm and provoking the Prime Minister to respond.
A week of intense activity in Rome, with change very much in the air, will reach a peak with the public elevation of 19 new cardinals, reform-minded churchmen handpicked by Pope Francis to put his own stamp on the College of Cardinals.
It is somewhat bizarre to consult the faithful on matters of doctrine and then not to tell them what the consultation amounted to – particularly when the matters concerned are of the utmost importance to them, affecting the lives and happiness of millions.
Floodwaters do not wash away the sins of government. They tend instead to reveal and exploit every weakness. The catastrophic inundation of the Somerset Levels has been followed by the bursting of the banks of the Severn and the Thames.
It is well known that the Queen takes a personal as well as a professional interest in matters religious, and mentions it more often and more generously than she has to. She can be regarded as a Christian leader in her own right as well as a secular figurehead.
The verdict on the Holy See’s compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was always bound to be a harsh one. The committee appointed to supervise the Convention found that the Vatican had failed to take appropriate action
The Western secularists’ protest – that all the trouble in the world is caused by religion – seems to be confirmed by every headline. Nearly 10 million people in Syria are sorely in need of help because of a bloody conflict ...
Economic recovery in the United Kingdom has at last arrived, at least in the short term. But if there is one lesson from the 2008 crash and aftermath that needs to be remembered, it is that market forces ...
By appearing before the United Nations committee responsible for the Convention on the Rights of the Child this week, the Holy See has taken a first step towards restoring its good name in respect of the Catholic Church’s record over clerical child abuse.
Confused English football fans have suddenly found themselves spectators at other people’s culture wars, namely a French debate about the meaning of a particular arm movement.
In appointing Archbishop Vincent Nichols to the College of Cardinals, Pope Francis has followed a convention that goes back to 1850,
There was a profound moral error as well as a serious political misjudgement behind Ariel Sharon’s approach to the Palestinian issue.
The rescue of three women apparently being held as slaves at a house in south London, and the recent jailing of three people for keeping a slave at a house in Sheffield, are shocking signs that the age-old evil of slavery is not yet dead.
Advent 2011 was the date on which the new translation of the Mass in English came into general use in England and Wales, and two years does not seem like an unreasonable period for taking stock.
A valuable lesson Pope Francis has already taught the Catholic Church is that the imitation of Christ is the one sure way to win souls
One terse phrase from the King James Bible etched in the nation’s consciousness is from Proverbs 29:18: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”
It is not so easy to enjoy the prospect of Christmas this year, with almost daily television images of Syrian refugee children shivering in the winter cold. Some have fled from the violence, but some from more targeted persecution aimed by Islamic fundamentalists at Syria’s Christian minority.
How to become the “Church of the poor”? In a certain sense the question is redundant, as the Church always has been that. But Pope Francis’ emphasis on the preferential option for the poor is still a necessary reminder of how easy it is to drift into what seem like cultic ...
It is obvious that Catholic practice has come apart from Catholic theory with regard to sex, marriage and family life, particularly over the issue of cohabitation
The Prime Minister, David Cameron, has bravely chosen to use his time as the current president of the G8 summit to focus the world’s attention on dementia
Why has the Prime Minister been so obsequious to the Chinese during his visit there this week at the head of a large United Kingdom trade delegation?
The league tables of school performance regularly show church schools appearing to do better on average than schools without a religious character. Why this is, is hotly disputed.
The plan that Pope Francis wants the Catholic Church to follow has been emerging piece by piece since his election in March, but now he has set it out in detail.
The expression “going viral” may not be in the average theological dictionary, but perhaps it ought to be. It represents the fact that there is a new stage on which the gospel message of God’s unconditional love is being acted out: that of the social media.
Had Shakespeare been writing his Henry VI, Part Two today, he might have modified the famous line he gave to Dick the butcher in Act Four – “first let’s kill all the lawyers” – to refer to bankers. Of course, honest bankers exist, but as a trade they are even less loved than lawyers.
The world has responded with its usual generosity to the catastrophic typhoon, followed by widespread flooding from the resulting storm surge, that has devastated parts of the Philippines.
Any church programme designed to enliven the faith of the Catholic laity has to face an uncomfortable reality check. The great majority of lay Catholics in Britain are not anything like they are supposed to be.
Most remarkable about the consultation regarding sex, marriage and family life, in which the Catholic Church has asked Catholics throughout the world to take part, is its brave implication that things have to change.
What unites the unlikely quartet of the Catholic Education Service, the Mayor of London, the management consultants KPMG and the trade union Unison? Answer – they all support the campaign for a living wage.
There used to be a virtual consensus among business leaders, supported by mainstream economists on both sides of the Atlantic, that success in business and finance had little to do with morality.
Revelations about the gathering of other people’s secrets by intelligence bodies have taken a bizarre twist with the allegation that telephone calls made by Angela Merkel, head of the German Government...
Sir John Major chose to make one of his rare interventions in British politics since he lost office as Prime Minister in 1997 by warning the Government that many people faced a choice this winter between "eating and heating".
Recent cases make it imperative that the Vatican reviews its treatment of bishops who are regarded as out of line, whether over moral, financial or doctrinal matters. Present procedures are seriously defective.
Archbishop Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), seems to be making embarrassing the papacy something of a habit.
It is easy to pillory social workers after a child has died from parental neglect or abuse. Official inquiries conducted after such terrible events usually conclude that more alert, more coordinated or more intensive intervention could have checked the destructive flow of events.
More than 40 years ago, official representatives of the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches announced that they had achieved substantial agreement on the doctrine of the Eucharist.
The findings of the Leonard Cheshire Disability report on care are stark. According to the charity, three- fifths of local councils tell care workers making home visits to the elderly to spend only a quarter of an hour with them.
The first six months of the papacy of Francis have seen perceptions of the Catholic Church transformed beyond recognition. Its image when Pope Benedict stood down was dire. Catholicism was regarded as narrow-minded, corrupt and sclerotic.
Commentators talk about the political “weather” referring to the key ideas that dominate the political debate. The party conference season this year could have witnessed a political climate change, triggered by two proposals in Ed Miliband’s speech to the Labour Party conference which set the ideological weather-cocks spinning.