Polish community in uproar over order’s plan to sell Fawley Court
POLEShave become embroiled in a row with the Congregation of Marian Fathers over plans to sell a £22 million mansion in Oxfordshire. The Marian Fathers put Fawley Court, Henley-onThames, on the market last month after negotiations to pass it on to the Polish community at a discount rate broke down. Protesters say the decision to sell the property is a betrayal of the Polish migrant community who raised most of the money to buy it in the first place. They argue that Fawley Court is a central part of Polish culture in Britain and that the Marian Fathers should act as trustees for the wider Polish community. The Marian Fathers, meanwhile, say they cannot afford to maintain the building and that the Polish community has not yet offered any realistic plans for its future. The vast 17th-century property was bought in 1953 in a run-down state after it had been used as a base for military intelligence during the Second World War. The Marian Fathers turned it into a boarding school for boys which was supposed to be the Polish equivalent of Eton. But falling numbers of pupils led to the school’s closure in 1986. It has since been used for conferences, weddings and retreats, and its Whitsun fairs still draw thousands of Polish families each year. The property was put on the market last month and has had
The Marian Fathers say they can no longer afford to maintain Fawley Court, Henley-on-Thames
180 inquiries and 15 viewings already. Over the last few weeks Britain’s Polish newspaper Dziennik Polski has been inundated with letters and has published a petition against the sale. Its editor, Jaroslaw Kozminski, said the Polish community felt “abandoned”. Several Polish organisations have joined forces to try to persuade the Marian Fathers to retain Fawley Court for the benefit of Poles. Jan Sikorski, chairman of
the Relief Society for Poles, said that people would be “disgusted” if Fawley Court was not kept in Polish hands. “If there isn’t a working compromise with the Polish community as represented by these organisations then not only would it discredit the Marian Fathers, it would discredit the Church as well,” he said. Mr Sikorski said the Marian Fathers had walked out of negotiations to offer the property at a discount to Poles
before putting it on the market. The two sides were unable to reach an agreement over price after the Marian Fathers’ offer of £20 million –a 10 per cent cut – had been rejected. Mr Sikorski explained that some Poles felt the Marian Fathers had waited until the founding donors were too old to protest before announcing the sale. “It is legitimate to speculate that they have done this now because the opposition is far weaker than it
would have been 20 years ago,” Mr Sikorski said. Several of the main Polish organisations in Britain met last month to consider how to stop the sale. They agreed to approach both the Charity Commission and a canon lawyer and selected six delegates to negotiate with the Marian Fathers. One possibility, according to Mr Sikorski, is to re-open Fawley Court as a Polish school. But he stressed he was optimistic a solution could be found once
the Marian Fathers opened up their accounts and became more financially transparent. The meeting also attracted a member of Poland’s parliament, Joanna Fabisiak. She said the Polish government was “very interested in the education of Polish children in England” and was pursuing a “special arrangement” with the Department for Children, Schools and Families. Fr Wojtek Jasinski, superior of Fawley Court, said the property was “just not affordable” and needed at least £2 million to be spent on repairs. He also said that it was bought mainly with money from the Marian Fathers. He explained that the order had discussed the situation with Polish groups, English bishops and the Polish hierarchy before announcing their decision. “We invited people to come forward to give suggestions about what we could do,” he said. “But no one came forward with a realistic project –it was all just wishful thinking. There was no alternative but to put it on the market.” He explained that only four priests live in the enormous main building and just 100 to 150 people attend Sunday Mass at the church there. He said: “We want to go to where the people live. In London on a Sunday at our church in Ealing we have almost 5,000 people. At present London is more important than Fawley Court.” Fr Jasinski said they wanted to spend the money on helping Polish women in Britain who were seeking abortions.
Government concedes defeat over ‘gay hate’ laws
THELABOURGOVERNMENThas backed down in its fight to overturn a defeat inflicted by peers over plans to make public criticism of gay lifestyles a crime. The measure was thrown out by the House of Lords last month after peers feared that it would have stopped Christians from proclaiming their beliefs about marriage and the family. But the Government was determined to push its proposals through and on Tuesday last week it returned the provisions of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill to the Commons where it was supported by 338 votes to 136.
The following day, however, the Bill was again rejected by the Lords by 178 votes to 164, with 13 Labour peers defying a Government whip. The Government then backed down and allowed a free speech protection to be written into its “homophobic hatred” law. The protection means that criticising homosexual practice or urging people to refrain from such conduct will not, in itself, be a crime. Words or behaviour which are threatening and intended to stir up hatred will be covered by the offence, which carries a maximum seven-year prison sentence. Lord Waddington, who proposed the free speech amendment, told the Lords: “My understanding is that the
Government do not wish to see discussion stifled and people harassed, bullied, interrogated and sometimes arrested for expressing their views. However, if that is so, it really is time that they did something about it.” Dame Butler-Sloss, a senior judge, supported the amendment. “There are religious groups, not only Christians, not only bishops, but many Jews and Muslims, which share strong views that they gain from the Bible, the Old Testament in particular, or the Koran. Those people are potentially at risk.” She added: “It is those people who will potentially be intimidated.” The Government said the issue could be made clear by publishing guidance instead of inserting a free speech protection into the Bill.
But Labour peer Lord Clarke said: “If we mean that we are to maintain the principle of free speech, we should make sure that it is in this Bill and not leave it to the interpretation of guidelines, which would become another lawyers’ paradise.” After the vote the Bill returned to the Commons. There the Government reluctantly decided to accept the Waddington amendment. Only the Liberal Democrat front bench objected, forcing a vote on the matter. The amendment was finally accepted by 324 votes to 46 as the Government joined the Conservatives to end the impasse. The amendment read that “the discussion or criticism of sexual conduct or practices or the urging of
persons to refrain from or modify such conduct or practices shall not be taken of itself to be threatening or intended to stir up hatred”. It mirrored a similar clause in the Government’s laws against incitement to religious hatred which was forced through in 2006 only after a protracted battle in the House of Lords. The Government’s original plans had been criticised by gay public figures including the former Tory MP and journalist Matthew Parris, and Peter Tatchell, the leader of hard-line gay rights group OutRage! Church leaders had also complained to the Government about cases of police harassment –under existing legislation –of Christians who had publicly expressed views on sexuality.
MAY 16, 2008 THE CATHOLIC HERALD
Read Cardinal Kasper’s Oxford lecture At www.catholicherald.co.uk/kasperlecture
Sawston Hall campaigners appeal for fresh support
CAMPAIGNERSfighting to keep open a historic Catholic house have invited readers of The Catholic Herald to support them. They are trying to raise enough money to buy the Tudor-era Sawston Hall in Cambridgeshire and turn it into a Catholic heritage centre. Anyone who would like to support the campaign should send a letter to Keith Miles, 19
Elm Tree Green, Great Missenden, HP16 9AF. The hall was put on the market after the owner’s plans to convert it into a luxury hotel stalled. Its price has been estimated as £6 million but campaigners believe it could be bought for as little as £2.5 million because of the credit crunch. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor has pledged his support.
Missionaries relocate in Far East
THEMISSIONARYSociety of St Columban, which has had headquarters in Ireland since the society’s founding in 1918, has moved its offices from Dublin to Hong Kong to reflect that its vocations come primarily from Asian and Pacific Rim countries. Fr Tommy Murphy, superior general of the society, said: “We have so many members coming from Korea, Fiji, the Philippines. To relocate the headquarters to the Pacific side is to reflect this emerging reality.” He said the decision to move the council to Hong Kong was not made lightly. “The move reflects the society’s 90year commitment to cross-cultural Catholic mission work,” he said. He added that the main practical consideration for the move was to facilitate communications in the region. Australian Fr Jim Mulroney, manager of the society’s Hong Kong-based research and liaison office for China, said that Hong Kong’s communication technologies, as well as its location in Asia, made it a good choice.
Classified section launched online
THECATHOLICHERALDhas launched an online classified advertisements page. The section will display recruitment adverts for schools, charities and any organisation that requires a Catholic chaplain. It is The Catholic Herald’s first online advertising venture since the website was launched almost two years ago. Michael Dean Anderson, head of classified advertising, said: “I’m thrilled that
we now have the opportunity to provide advertisers with a new way of recruiting staff. Online ads mean that copy deadlines can never be missed as the advert can be posted online immediately.” The Catholic Herald website now breaks news stories throughout the week and provides up-to-theminute coverage of events such as World Youth Day. For details go to: http://www.catholicherald.co .uk/classified/
Cathedral features in stamp series
WESTMINSTERCATHEDRALis one of seven British cathedrals commemorated on a new set of Royal Stamp stamps issued this week. The 72p stamp is part of a set of specially commissioned photographs of cathedrals in Belfast, Gloucester, Lichfield and St Magnus in the Orkney Islands. There is also a fourstamp St Paul’s Cathedral miniature set, celebrating the 300th anniversary of the completion of Sir Christopher Wren’s showpiece. Fr Christopher Tuckwell, cathedral administrator, said: “It is a tremendous honour for Westminster Cathedral to be featured... and a sign of the Church’s presence at the centre of our national life. I hope that this stamp makes more people aware of the splendour of one of the finest examples of Victorian architecture and Byzantine art in the world.” The stamp shows the nave of the neo-Byzantine Cathedral, designed by John Francis Bentley and completed in 1903. Julietta Edgar, head of special stamps at the Royal Mail, said: “The level of detail achieved on all the stamps is quite astonishing. The interiors of these cathedrals have been captured on the stamps in breathtaking detail, which perfectly conveys the grandeur of these beautiful buildings.”
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Muslims ‘could soon outnumber churchgoers’
Distinguished church musician dies aged 90 years
PRACTISING Muslims will outnumber churchgoers by 2035, according to figures released next month by Christian Research. The statistics-gathering organisation forecasts that practising Muslims will number 1.96 million by that year, compared to 1.63 million church-going Christians. The series of reports, entitled Religious Trendsalso predicts that 4,000 churches could shut by 2020. At present there are 1.6 million Muslims in Britain, compared to 41 million Christians, although only three million of those attend church regularly. The figures on practising Muslims are an update on a prediction made by Christian Research in 2001, when it estimated that practising Muslims would outnumber Christians by 2039. Cardinal Cormac MurphyO’Connor, giving a talk at Westminster Cathedral, played down the figures. “I don’t accept that Christianity in this country is diminishing. You’ve got to beware of statistics,” he said. He added that the Catholic Church needed to help Muslims, and other minority religious groups, to integrate into British society. At the same time, he hoped that Muslim countries would reciprocate by allowing Christian minorities to practice their faith freely.
The Church of England denounced the predictions as “flawed and dangerously misleading”. The head of research and statistics for the Archbishops’ Council, the Rev Lynda Barley, said: “These statistics are incomplete and represent only a partial picture of religious trends in the UK today. In recent years, church life has significantly diversified so these traditional statistics are less and less meaningful in isolation.” Christian Research defended the figures, saying it hoped to encourage “change in Christian culture so that by 2010 more churches are growing”. Two churches are closed every week and over £1 billion is needed to repair churches nationally, while the Government spends only £25 million a year on maintenance. Furthermore, planned EU changes to VAT mean churches could need another £10m every year. According to the predictions the number of churches will fall from 48,500 to 39,000 in 2030. Anglican Bishop Stephen Lowe of Hulme said: “We don’t want to just preserve these buildings, but to open them up. They should be used seven days a week,” he said. About 13,000 of the country’s 14,500 listed places of worship are Anglican churches.
CHURCHmusician Mary Berry, the nun credited with saving Gregorian chant, has died at the age of 90. A musicologist and don of Cambridge University, Dr Berry was hugely influential in reviving Gregorian chant in Britain and abroad. In 1975 she founded the Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge, a group of young singers who studied and performed Gregorian chant under her direction. She travelled widely to organise Gregorian chant, inspiring chant groups as far a field as Australia, Estonia and the West Indies, and advocated the use of chant in its proper liturgical context at a time when Vatican reforms were threatening its existence. Born to a Vice-Master of Downing College, Cambridge, and the daughter of a clergyman, she became attracted to Catholicism at Cambridge and converted in 1938, soon before graduating. Working for the Red Cross at the outbreak of the Second World War, she joined the novitiate of the Canonesses Regular of St Augustine of the Congregation of Notre-Dame de Jupille in Belgium in 1940. When the Germans invaded, the novitiate was evacuated on the last train to Paris, its possessions wrapped in scarlet blankets –“hardly the best camouflage”, as she later recalled.
She lived out the war in Lisbon. Dr Berry made her final profession in 1945, becoming Mother Thomas More, after which she was sent to Rome to teach music and English and run an infirmary during a typhoid epidemic. But it was after she was sent to Gregorian chant courses at the Institut Gréégorien in Paris that her life’s mission became apparent. Returning to Cambridge in 1963 for a PhD in musicology under Thurston Dart, she founded chant centres in England and Ireland and in 1968 was awarded a doctorate for her thesis on the performance of plainsong in the 15th and 16th centuries. Soon afterwards she became a Fellow at Newnham College. During this period she began to feel that much had been lost in the surge to modernise during he Second Vatican Council. From 1975, at a colleague’s suggestion, she founded the Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge. From the Schola’s first service on Palm Sunday 1975 in St John’s College chapel, it had a huge influence in saving the musical form. “Our main aim was to tell people about this wonderful, virtually unknown, music,” she once said. Dr Berry also wrote two introductory books, Plainchant for Everyone and Cantors: A Collection of Gregorian Chants, to encourage people to learn the chant.
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Pilgrimages for groups and individuals
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Lourdes & Nevers By Air to Lourdes and return by Coach. Three nights in Lourdes & on return coach journey venerate the incorrupt body of St. Bernadette in Nevers. 6 nights: 30th May - 5th June: £495 p.p.
Pilgrimages to Krakow & Czestochowa. 4 & 7 nights. (Prices exclude flights.) May, June, July, Aug & Sept. From £ 335 p.p.
Monthly Pilgrimages for 3, 4 or 7 nights. From £255 p.p. excluding flights Special Accompanied Pilgrimage 24th - 30th June. Full spiritual programme. 6 nights from £610p.p. (Excludes flights)
4 or 7 nights. Monthly from May. From £465 p.p.
Fatima Tour: 12th - 19th May. From £575 p.p. Fatima, Santiago & Lourdes.
DIOCESANPILGRIMAGES For details contact your Diocese or Tangney Tours
FREE BROCHURE LINE: 0800 9173572 FORALLOURPILGRIMAGESVISITOURWEBSITE
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Read the Cardinal’s lecture on Faith and Life in Britain At www.rcdow.org.uk/lectures
Cardinal urges Christians to seek dialogue with atheists
CHRISTIANSMUSTseek to nurture understanding and dialogue with atheists, the leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales has said. Cardinal Cormac MurphyO’Connor argued that God was often misrepresented by prominent atheists such as Richard Dawkins, the author of the 2006 best-selling polemic The God Delusion . He said that in reality there was a persistent element of doubt in the convictions of both Christians and atheists which “could become the basis for an open dialogue”. “The line dividing faith from
unbelief passes through the heart of each of us,” he said in a lecture on “Faith in Britain Today”. “I would want to encourage people of faith to regard those without faith with deep esteem because the hidden God is active in their lives as well as in the lives of those who believe,” he said. “Believers need to recognise that they have something in common with those who do not believe,” he added. “But it is no less true that unbelievers might benefit from recognising that there is something of the believer in every person. Believers and non-believers need to recognise and understand each other better, more accurately, more appreciatively.”
The proper “response to God” was faith and not absolute certainty, the Cardinal said, and he invited Christians to examine how they might have given people a misleading view of the mystery of God. “God does not need polemicists on his behalf, but God needs witnesses and the quality of witness that we give to God is a more effective pointer to God than anything else,” he said. The Cardinal’s comments came in the last of a series of six lectures in Westminster Cathedral, London, on the subject of faith in Britain. Previous speakers have included former Prime Minister Tony Blair, Anglican leader Dr Rowan
Williams, Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague, Mark Thompson, the director general of the BBC, and Rabbi Julia Neuberger, an adviser to Gordon Brown. The Cardinal said the primary purpose of the series was to open religion to the “questions of those who do not believe”. His talk focused on the phenomenon of rising hostility to religion in Britain, which has seen many atheists and agnostics arguing that religion must be solely a private matter and have no role in the public life of the nation. The Cardinal argued that such “privatisation of religion” had created a new “spiritual homelessness” which was impoverishing the country. “Many people have a sense
of being in a sort of exile from faithguided experience,” he said. “They think that even if they wanted to believe, faith is no longer an option for them. “In Britain today, I detect among many people a sense of loss, of not being in touch with living sources that can nourish them,” he said. “They want to live by shared values that can sustain our society but do not know where to find them. They want to find a context that can give lives a deep meaning, but, again, are unable to find it.” The Cardinal said that Catholicism was profoundly social. “You cannot banish religion to the church premises and I am unhappy about
the various attempts to eliminate the Christian voice from the public forum,” the Cardinal said. “Our life together in Britain cannot be a Godfree zone and we must not allow Britain to become a world devoid of religious faith and its powerful contribution to the common good.” Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor said he wanted to challenge the many “new atheists” who, he said, were unable to cope with the notion of an intelligent and reflective Christianity and were seeking to isolate religion from other forms of knowledge and experience in order to marginalise it.
Editorial Comment: Page 11
Catholics grieve for murdered former altar boy
CATHOLICS in south-east London were this week mourning the death of a former altar boy whose throat was slashed in an unprovoked attack one day after his 16th birthday. Jimmy Mizen was killed when he went out to buy his first lottery ticket as part of his celebrations. He was in a bakery shop in Lee with his brother Harry, 18, when a boy challenged him to a fight, according to detectives. When Jimmy refused the boy left the shop, smashed down the door and came back inside wielding an advertising board. In the violence that followed, Jimmy’s throat was cut with glass and he bled to death in his brother’s arms. On Sunday 250 people attended an emotional Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Lee, where Jimmy was baptised and had served as an altar boy. Prayers were said for him and a two-minute silence was observed. During the Mass Fr Edward Perera said: “We welcome this morning the family of Jimmy, his mum and dad, the rest of the family and also the friends and teachers from the schools that Jimmy has been a member of in the past. “Yesterday when I spoke to Margaret and Barry, Margaret said something very powerful. She said: ‘I will be there in the morning for Mass because I need my faith. The parish is
Murdered: Jimmy Mizen
my family and I need the support of the family.’ ” He added: “It’s wonderful to know that Margaret wanted to be here with the family because she realises the support and the strength she will receive from the parish community.” Jimmy’s six brothers and two sisters attended the Mass and his youngest brother George, eight, served as one of the altar boys. Afterwards Fr Perera said the Mass had been overwhelming. “I have never seen a parish so numb,” he said. “After Mass, people usually want to go home quickly. Today nobody moved.” Parishioners lingered outside the church as Jimmy’s father Barry told how his son had been about to sit his GCSE exams and had been due to start an apprenticeship at Southwark Council. Margaret, his mother, said:
“He was the loveliest, gentlest giant. He was loved by everyone, by his school, the church and his family. There was a sense of decency about him. He was very straightforward, very uncomplicated. Jimmy wasn’t afraid of hugs. We loved him and he loved us back. He was very proud of his family.” She said that the family probably knew the attacker. “I just want to say to the parents of this other boy, I want to say I feel so, so sorry for them. I don’t feel anger, I feel sorry for the parents. We’ve got such lovely memories of Jimmy and they will just have such sorrow about their son. I feel for them, I really do.” Last Monday it would have been Jimmy’s last day at St Thomas More Catholic secondary school in Eltham, where Barry Mizen is vicechairman of the governors. On the day about 50 students gathered outside the bakery where he was killed and wrote “RIP Jimmy” in black marker on each other’s shirts. School ties were attached to railings near the scene, alongside flowers and a rugby ball with “Keep on playing, Jimmy” written on it. Markus Ryan, Jimmy’s headmaster, said: “Jimmy was a very well-liked, gentle student who always tried his best. Jimmy came from a loving, large Catholic family. Our thoughts and prayers are with Jimmy and his family at this very sad time.”
Mourners congregate outside the Our Lady of Lourdes church in Lee, south-east London, after attending the special Mass for Jimmy Mizen Photo: PA
Collapse of the family is ‘greatest of modern evils’
THEBREAKDOWNof marriage is one of the “greatest evils of our day”, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor has said in a BBC interview. The Cardinal gave the interview on the same day that he celebrated a special Mass for matrimony at Westminster. More than 700 couples with a combined total of more than 43,000 years of marriage celebrated their anniversaries. He said: “I think that the breakdown of marriage is one of the greatest evils of our day and the consequences are not only now, but very much into the future. “Faith communities, not only the Christian communities but other faith communities, if we’re counter-cultural and say there should be marriage until death do us part, then we are preserving a tradition that is hugely, hugely important not just for today, but for our country, and for the future. “If you speak to any government official or social services, you’ll find that much of the trouble that comes, whether it is crime or disruption, comes from broken families. How often now are people and governments saying to parents, please, not just control your children, but form your children, help your children, it makes it a lot easier in schools.” The Cardinal invited the couples from the Diocese of Westminster who were celebrating 10th, 25th, 30th, 40th, 50th and 60th wedding anniversaries during 2008 to give thanks, renew their vows and pray for their families and all marriages. Among the
congregation were nine couples who had been married for over 60 years. After the homily the couples each stated their intention to continue to love one another. But in his television appearance the leader of England’s Catholics said that the broken society was “a time bomb” that will have disastrous consequences in the future. “It’s starting now over these past years, the growth of divorce and break-up, but the effects of it will go on and on, unless somehow society comes to see, and hopefully our young people who are going to get married, will be able to see, that faithful long-term marriage, permanent marriage is a blessing. A blessing not only for them, but a blessing for society.” Research by think tanks has shown a clear link between family breakdown and crime. The Heritage Foundation in the United States found that a 10 per cent increase in children living in single-parent homes led to a 17 per cent increase in juvenile crime. It also found that neighbourhoods with high religious attendance had lower crime rates and even in highcrime areas children from stable two-parent families were only a tenth as likely to commit crime as those from unstable homes. After the Mass Esther Buckingham from St Albans, celebrating her 50th anniversary this year, said: “I wish all couples that are starting out have the same happiness that we have had. That is not to say that marriage is easy, but people do not give marriage a chance today. People give up too easily.”
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