13 April 2017, The Tablet

News Briefing: from Britain and Ireland

Thousands of police officers lined the streets leading to Southwark’s Anglican Cathedral on Monday for the funeral of PC Keith Palmer, who was stabbed while guarding the Houses of Parliament during the 22 March Westminster terror attack. Mourners stood in silence outside the cathedral as the funeral, led by the Dean of Southwark, Andrew Nunn, was broadcast onto screens. The cortège travelled to Southwark from the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft in the Palace of Westminster where, by special permission of the Queen, PC Palmer’s body had lain in rest overnight watched by a guard of honour of his police colleagues.

Priest escapes jail over theft
A priest who stole £50,000 from his parish after falling in love with his housekeeper and lavishing gifts on her family was saved from jail by what a judge described as “an exemplary life dedicated to the service of others”. Fr John Reid, 70, who had admitted defrauding St Cuthbert’s Church in Chester-le-Street, County Durham, was given an 18-month sentence suspended for two years. He promised to repay the money within three months. Durham Crown Court heard that Fr Reid treated his housekeeper, Gillian Leddy, and her daughters, Veronica and Alice, as “the family that he never had”. In the 40 months after he joined the parish in 2009 his presbytery spending doubled.

Scottish care homes run by Catholic charities will be investigated as part of the second phase of the child abuse inquiry commissioned by the Scottish Government. In autumn 2017, five care centres in central Scotland and Fife run by the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul will be examined, along with four institutions run by the Sisters of Nazareth. The inquiry will move into a public phase in May, when the first open sessions will begin. At the moment it is hearing testimony from victims. Other faith-based institutions are being investigated, as well as major care providers such as Barnardo’s and the former Quarriers Homes.

Plea for the ‘Disappeared’
The Primate of All Ireland has made an impassioned plea for information on the outstanding cases of the “Disappeared” victims of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. In his homily at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh last weekend, Archbishop Eamon Martin (above) appealed to the consciences of those on all sides who carry “secrets and memories” of their “involvement in the deaths and injury of thousands of men, women and children”. The “Disappeared” are victims who were kidnapped, murdered and secretly buried by Republicans during  the conflict. Archbishop Martin specifically highlighted the cases of Joe Lynskey, Robert Nairac, Seamus Ruddy and Columba McVeigh, all victims of Republican violence, involving the IRA or INLA. Families whose loved ones were never included in the list of the Disappeared must also be helped to find answers and peace, he said, appealing to those with any information at all to bring it to the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains.

A quarter of Christians in Britain do not believe in the Resurrection, according to a BBC survey. A ComRes survey of 2,010 British adults commissioned for Palm Sunday found that just 17 per cent of all respondents believed in Biblical accounts of the Resurrection word for word; that rose to 31 per cent among Christians and 57 per cent among regular churchgoers. Exactly half of those surveyed said they did not believe in the Resurrection at all – although nine per cent of non-religious people said they believed in the Resurrection.

‘Shambolic’ safeguarding
The National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland (NBSCCCI) has published its final tranche of audits of religious orders, after publication of reviews of four orders was held up by the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIA) in Northern Ireland. The audits covered the De La Salle Brothers, the Sisters of Nazareth, Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd and the Norbertines, an order which the NBSCCCI described as “notorious” for its “mismanagement” of the convicted paedophile, Fr Brendan Smyth. According to the board, there was no evidence of any attempts by the order to identify victims or to offer them any pastoral response.

The Rt Revd Tim Thornton, Bishop of Truro, is to become the new Bishop at Lambeth in London. Bishop Thornton will take up the post in September, replacing the Rt Revd Nigel Stock when he retires. His duties will include supporting the Archbishop of Canterbury’s work in the House of Bishops, and at the General Synod.

Some 40 members of the group Catholic Women Speak met at the University of Roehampton last week to discuss issues facing women in the Church. Speakers including former Tablet editor Catherine Pepinster, and Ursula Halligan, political editor for Ireland’s TV3, spoke about their experiences and their vision of a more inclusive Church. One of the organisers, Tina Beattie (above), said afterwards: “None of the women at our gathering wants to bring the institutional Church toppling down, but we all want a Church that is more able to create spaces for women and girls to grow and flourish.”

Students studying for the priesthood at the Pontifical Scots College in Rome are to assist Pope Francis in St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican’s Easter Vigil on 15 April at 7.30pm. Last year Francis met the seminarian community at a private audience at the Vatican held to celebrate its 400th anniversary.

The Irish Seanad (upper house) is due to consider a bill that could end the 90-year-old ban on the sale of alcohol on Good Friday. The Government has indicated that it will not oppose the bill, tabled by a group of independent senators, and, if passed, is expected to incorporate its proposals into its own legislation. The removal of the ban is likely to come into effect for Good Friday 2018.

The Pioneer Total Abstinence Association has said it is “fully in favour” of the ban on the sale of alcohol on Good Friday.

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