INSIDE: BISHOP MARK DAVIES REVIEWS THE POPE’S NEW BOOK
BOOKS: PAGE 15
March 18 2011 £1.50 (Republic of Ireland €1.80)
Cardinal: our foreign policy is ‘anti-Christian’
BY ED WEST
CARDINAL KEITH O’BRIEN has accused the British Government of adopting an “antiChristian” foreign policy.
He criticised the Foreign Secretary William Hague for doubling overseas aid to Pakistan to more than £445 million without demanding religious freedom in a country where Christians are persecuted.
He said: “To increase aid to the Pakistan government when religious freedom is not upheld and those who speak up for religious freedom are gunned down is tantamount to an anti-Christian foreign policy.
“This reality is both shocking and saddening. In countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, Christians face violence, intolerance and even death because of their beliefs.”
A new report out this week claims that the plight of the most persecuted Christian communities in the world has grown considerably worse, and some of the world’s oldest communities face extinction.
In Persecuted and Forgotten? 2011, compiled by the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) and based on reports by human rights organisations, news providers and the charity’s own contacts, the authors claim that there has been a “noticeable” increase in the persecution of the faithful in two thirds of the worst affected areas since their last report in 2008.
The worst persecution has taken place in Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, Pakistan and Turkey. Overall conditions for Christians in 22 of the 34 countries listed have become more dangerous, with attacks on churches, kidnappings and killings, and intolerance, both official and unofficial.
John Pontifex, the report’s author, also condemned the way the persecution is largely ignored by the western media. He said: “This failure to acknowledge the crimes against Christianity could not be more tragic, coming at a time when in key countries the violence and intimidation of the faithful have manifestly worsened.”
The major threat to Christians around the world remains Islamism. The report says: “By 2011, organisations promoting human rights for Christians were noting the increased threat posed by Islamism, especially extremist movements originating in Saudi Arabia.”
Much of the justification for violence against Christians came from allegations of proselytism or disrespect shown to the Koran and Mohammed. Extremists also linked Christians with western countries, especially the United States, which they accused of being latter-day Crusaders. But in many cases, the report said, the aim of Islamists is to drive Christians out altogether. This was the motive behind the massacre of Christians at the Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad on October 31 last year, which left 58 people dead.
The report said that Iraq’s Christian population may be as low as 150,000, down from 1.4 million in 1987. The report also cited the Holy Land, where Palestinian Christians comprised 85 per cent of Bethlehem’s population in 1948 but just 12 per cent today. Patriarch Fouad Twal said last year that Jerusalem’s Christian population would almost disappear by the middle of this decade.
The report stated that Christianity was endangered in the Middle East as never before. “In the 2008 edition of Persecuted and Forgotten? the question concerning the Middle East seemed to be about the gradual decline of Christianity into obscurity,” it said. “Now the question is much more painful: will future historians say of us that we were first-hand witnesses to the extinguishing of Christianity in the very countries where the light of our faith first took hold?”
There has also been an increase in persecution in non-Muslim countries, the report noted, such as in the Indian state of Orissa, where attacks led to the displacement of 50,000 Catholics and Protestants. In some majority Buddhist countries anti-Christian sentiments are often viewed as patriotic. There is also persecution in officially secular and atheistic states, like Venezuela and North Korea.
Last autumn the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) reported that at least 75 per cent of all religious persecution was directed at Christians. COMECE also said that 100 million people were discriminated against or persecuted.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster said: “We have all become increasingly shocked and alarmed by reports of violence and intimidation against Christians in a number of countries around the world. ACN’s book is essential reading for those who care about the survival of Christianity, not least in parts of the Middle East, where the faithful are fleeing their homelands and the Church is at risk of disappearing.”
Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said: “We share the cardinal’s concern about the plight of Christians facing persecution. Freedom of religion is a fundamental human right and we condemn and deplore religious persecution in any form.
“The effective promotion of human rights, including freedom of religion, is at the heart of our foreign policy.”
Mary Kenny: Page 12
Catholic agencies in rush to help Japan
BY MARK GREAVES
CATHOLIC aid agencies in Japan this week were struggling to comprehend the scale of the country’s worst natural disaster in recorded history.
Tens of thousands of people were feared dead after a magnitude 9.0 earthquake triggered a tsunami that swept over port towns on Japan’s east coast.
As The Catholic Herald went to press technicians were battling to avert a further nuclear catastrophe after several explosions at an unstable power plant.
On Sunday Pope Benedict XVI praised the Japanese for acting with “dignity and courage”. He said he would pray for the victims and all those who were suffering “because of these terrible events”.
A Canadian missionary priest, Fr Andre Lachapelle, is reported to be among the dead.
Report: Page 5 Editorial Comment: Page 13
A rescue worker walks through a former residential area in the town of Otuchi where 12,000 of the 15,000 inhabitants are reported missing following the earthquake Photo: CNS
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Record number to enter Church in England and Wales at Easter
BY ANNA ARCO
A RECORD number of people will be welcomed into the Church in England and Wales at Easter.
Over 4,700 people took part in Rite of Election ceremonies in dioceses around England and Wales last weekend, marking a bumper year of new faithful, both catechumens and candidates for reception.
The number was unusually high thanks to groups of exAnglicans being received into the Church in Holy Week for the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. But even without the ordinariate groups the numbers of receptions are relatively high.
The Archdiocese of Westminster has the largest number of candidates and catechumens, with almost 900 people overall. Sixty-two are former Anglicans who will join the ordinariate in Holy Week, while 829 others will be received or baptised at Easter. The latter figure marks a slight drop from 2009’s record high of 850 people being welcomed into the Church at Easter.
Southwark archdiocese has a record 684 people, of whom 167 are joining the ordinariate.
The Diocese of Portsmouth also has a record number of candidates and catechumens, without even counting the 61 former Anglicans joining the ordinariate.
Meanwhile, according to figures released by the Bishops of England and Wales, Brentwood diocese has the highest number of former Anglicans joining the ordinariate of all the dioceses in England and Wales, with 240 people.
The south of England has the largest numbers of people joining the ordinariate while 11 dioceses, located predominantly in the north of England and Wales, do not have any people joining the ordinariate who were present at the Rite of Election.
Report: Page 2
Poles walk to Rome to honour John Paul
Council names road after Bishop Hollis
BY ED WEST
TWO POLISH men have begun their journey to witness the beatification of their compatriot John Paul II – on foot.
Paweł Bibułowicz and Andrzej Kofluk have set off on the 900-mile journey from Olbrachcice Wielkie, in southwestern Poland, to Rome, in time for the event on May 1.
They will join an estimated two million of their fellow countrymen, who will arrive in Rome by more conventional means. The two men are equipped with sleeping bags, a small tent, mobile phones and some food, and hope to count on the hospitality of the people they come across.
Mr Bibułowicz, 21, said: “I am walking to show that there are people who still remember John Paul II.”
BY MARK GREAVES
A ROAD outside St John’s Cathedral in Portsmouth has been re-named Bishop Crispian Way in honour of the city’s bishop.
Bishop Crispian Hollis of Portsmouth, who is nearing retirement after 22 years as bishop, was surprised to be shown the new sign on Sunday by the leader of
Portsmouth City Council, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson.
The bishop said: “I am overwhelmed by the honour that is being done to me by the re-naming of what I might call our section of Edinburgh Road. As far as I know, no such honour has been done to any of my predecessors and I am still at a little bit of a loss to know what I have done to deserve this honour.”
Saving lives in London The 28-year-old activist making waves PAGE 7
Walsingham at 950 Shrine marks major anniversary PAGE 8