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The television version of Hilary Mantel’s novel Wolf Hall is the latest account to challenge St Thomas More’s reputation as a courageous defender of the rights of conscience. Was he, in truth, a liberal icon, a religious fanatic or something in between?
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Archbishop Antonio Mennini, the apostolic nuncio to Great Britain, told the biannual meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales in Leeds on Monday that mercy, poverty and humility were required.
The archbishop quoted from Pope Francis’ speech to nuncios in June, which outlined the characteristics needed in a bishop. These included, said Archbishop Mennini, pastors being “close to the people … gentle, patient and merciful; may they love poverty, interior poverty”, without “the mindset of princes”.
The nuncio continued: “In this way, the Holy Father not only presents the profile of who should be taken into consideration as a candidate for the episcopacy, the ‘bishops-to-be’, but – I dare to say – also Pope Francis shows how those who are already bishops should live; actually each one of us!”
Archbishop Mennini produced copies of the relevant section of the Pope’s speech and asked the English and Welsh hierarchy to read and reflect on it.
His address comes as eight dioceses in Britain await new bishops, with some in the Church concerned about the delay in making the appointments. The nuncio said his office was “very committed” to the appointment of bishops.
Elsewhere in his speech he thanked the hierarchy – particularly the Archbishops of Westminster and Southwark – for their work in opposing same-sex marriage.
“I really admire your determined and steady commitment in trying to avoid this sad legislation and its negative consequences for the family,” Archbishop Mennini said.
He explained that the Church was not living in easy times and pointed to the issues of religious education in schools and the consequences that would follow the passing of assisted suicide legislation.