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No. 6486

December 17 2010 £1.20 (Republic of Ireland €1.70)

Bishops urge faithful to fight domestic abuse


DOMESTIC abuse is a hidden and widespread evil that ought to be addressed in Sunday homilies, according to a campaign by the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

A website launched this week advises priests to preach “with an awareness that one in four of the congregation may have experience of domestic abuse”.

It also suggests that stickers be put up in every parish carrying the domestic abuse helpline number.

The website,, offers advice, prayer cards, and podcasts. It was part funded by the Day for Life collection.

In launching the site Auxiliary Bishop David McGough of Birmingham said that domestic abuse should be tackled in homilies “in a very sensitive way”.

He said: “As a parish priest of many, many years, I know that you cannot work in a pastoral situation without being aware of how widespread and yet hidden this particular issue is. If we are to bear the face of Christ in this world, then first of all we are those who listen, with compassion and with an overwhelming respect for those who are willing to share this with us. But then, we need to know what to do and where to go.”

Asked if priests should address the issue at Mass, the Bishop McGough said: “I would think so. Any preaching should certainly indicate all the positive things about what a home should be, and also, from time to time, there could be some reference to resources such as Cedar and that nobody should suffer in silence.”

Bishop McGough also said that women should separate from abusive husbands if their lives were in danger.

“The Church should never [counsel] a person who is in a situation of danger to remain in a relationship,” the bishop said. “In some cases, for reasons of safety, separation would be necessary. A person cannot be left in a position of danger.

“Obviously the main thing,” he added, “is to affirm the importance and value of married life.”

In a podcast on the Cedar website, Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham suggested that the Bible was sometimes used to justify domestic violence. He pointed to a letter by St Paul to the Ephesians that reads: “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.”

He said the passage was “often taken out of context”, adding: “The true teaching of St Paul is that there is an equality of dignity between man and wife and there is a mutual submission within that common life, within marriage, so that Paul says a man will love his wife as he loves his own body.”

Archbishop Longley also said that parishes could be a crucial refuge for women suffering from domestic abuse.

He said: “Within those situations very often women feel isolated because abusers – and this is a form of abuse – will try to isolate them from family and friends. But very often the main contact that they will find is within the Church community.”

The archbishop said parishioners should encourage victims to “seek help” and to realise that doing so is not “in any sense against the sacramentality of marriage”.

Elizabeth Davies, project officer of the bishops’ Committee for Marriage and Family Life, said if domestic abuse was talked about in parishes it might encourage some victims to come forward. She said parishes could provide a “safe place” for victims and offer “the respectful and caring support that they need during such a traumatic time”.

The Cedar website is a project of a working group on domestic abuse set up by the bishops’ conference two years ago. The group is made up of officials from the National Board of Catholic Women and the bishops’ Department of Christian Responsibility and Citizenship.

One spur for the project was the 2008 Pemberton inquiry which found that police had missed “significant opportunities” to stop a husband, Alan Pemberton, murdering his wife and son. It is understood that an official from the inquiry contacted the bishops’ conference asking if it had a policy on domestic abuse.

The Cedar website contains a series of interviews with Frank Mullane, a brother of murder victim Julia Pemberton. Mr Mullane founded a charity for families recovering from fatal domestic violence.

The site defines domestic abuse as not just violence but “any incident of threatening behaviour ... between adults who are, or who have been, intimate partners or family members. This includes men, women, adult children, disabled, sick and elderly family members.”

Catholic writer Joanna Bogle welcomed the bishops’ campaign, saying: “[Domestic abuse] is a horrible sin, and it’s the bishops’ job to denounce sin. Most serious domestic violence, though, does seem to happen among cohabitating couples rather than in marriage.”

According to Women’s Aid, one in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.

Feast day draws six million pilgrims


MORE than six million pilgrims visited the shrine that houses the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe to mark last Sunday’s feast day.

The basilica in Mexico City receives an average of 22 million people every year, according to Zenit news agency. Almost 30 per cent of that number made their visit to Our Lady between last Friday and Sunday.

It is estimated that on Sunday an average of 95,000 pilgrims entered the basilica every hour. They spent just a few seconds under the miraculous cape where 479 years ago the image of the Virgin was imprinted after the first bishop of Mexico City, Franciscan Friar Juan de Zumarraga, asked St Juan Diego for a sign that his visions were true.

Benedict XVI also recalled the feast day after praying the Angelus.

Pilgrims make their way to the basilica in Mexico City, one of the most popular Marian shrines in the world, for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron of the Americas Photo: CNS

Leader offers reward for murder of woman accused of blasphemy


FEARS are growing over the safety of the first Christian woman to be sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy as anti-Christian hysteria appears to be reaching fever pitch in Pakistan.

A prominent Muslim leader has offered a reward for the murder of Asia Bibi if she wins her appeal, a call that has been supported even by a mainstream daily Pakistani newspaper. Christian speakers in Punjab’s regional assembly have been denied permission to speak in defence of Bibi, who faces death by hanging, while those in favour of the punishment are allowed to make emotional speeches calling for her execution.

Nasir Saeed, the director of Claas, a charity campaigning for the rights of persecuted Christians in Pakistan, said that the government must nevertheless find the courage to reform an unjust law. “This is the time the law should be amended, as it is obvious to the entire world that it is being routinely abused to promote hate rage against religious minorities, particularly innocent Christians,” he said.

“It is also time for the British Government to press for the complete abolition of the law and to take up the case with the entire European community so that Pakistan knows that it cannot continue to tolerate the persecution of

Christians. The present situation is a source of intolerable and outrageous injustice against the Christians of Pakistan and we will not cease campaigning to bring this inquity to an end.”

A Punjabi court found Mrs Bibi, a mother of five, guilty of insulting Muhammad last month, acting on complaints from her Muslim neighbours who had objected to sharing a drinking bowl with a Christian.

Continued on Page 4

Horse methane plan for papal residence

Actor says he is proud to be Catholic


POPE BENEDICT XVI’s summer home could be heated by methane gas produced by horse manure.

Vatican officials are considering heating Castel Gandolfo with horse power in part of a drive to become more environmentally friendly.

The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano claimed that the Vatican City was the greenest state in the world last week. It said that the Vatican had spent several hundred million dollars on installing solar panels on the roof of the auditorium of Pope Paul VI as well as on other Vatican properties. The panels, which produce more energy than Germany’s solar energy project, supply energy to all the households belonging to the Vatican City.

Vatican officials are also considering a solar-powered heating and cooling system for a staff cafeteria.

Pope Benedict has been nicknamed “the green Pope”.


HOLLYWOOD actor Mark Wahlberg has talked about his deep Catholic faith in a candid interview with The Catholic Herald.

The 39-year-old star of The Departed told the paper, in an interview to be published next week: “Being a Catholic is the most important aspect of my life.”

He added: “The first thing I do when I start my day is, I get down on my hands and knees and give thanks to God.” Born in Boston to a devout Catholic family, Wahlberg is the youngest of nine children. A petty criminal from the age of 13, he was sentenced to two years in a house of cor-

rection before his music career turned his life around and he made his film debut in 1993.

The full interview will appear in next week’s edition.