DECEMBER 23 2011 THE CATHOLIC HERALD
Foollllow Thhe Cathholicc HHeerrald oonn TTwiittterr At http://twitter.com/catholicherald
‘The greatest gift is Jesus Christ’ English archbishops and a Scottish cardinal offer their Christmas greetings to readers of the Herald
I EXTEND my warmest greetings to you at this special time of year, as we anticipate the birth of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Christmas is of course a time to exchange gifts with loved ones. But let us not lose sight of what we are celebrating by doing so. The birth of Jesus should remind us that lasting satisfaction comes only from taking pleasure in what we can give, and not what we possess. We may give in many different ways, whether by giving time to someone who is often on their own, giving money to charities, working to alleviate the suffering of those less fortunate than ourselves or giving our support to someone who is going through a hard time to let them know they are not alone. Among all the presents and frivolity at this time of year, Christmas is a time to remember what we are truly grateful for: the greatest gift who is Christ, given to us by God because of his love for us.
The love of God, manifest in Christ Jesus, is a shining example of the ultimate act of giving and of sacrifice. Let us all reflect this love in sharing our kindness and generosity with others.
I wish you and your families a happy and holy Christmas, and a peaceful New Year.
A figurine of the Christ Child is seen inside St Peter’s Basilica in 2009 CNS photo/Giampiero Sposito, Reuters
OVER THE weeks of Advent the centre of the city of Birmingham has been crowded with visitors to the popular German Market. Mostly these have been groups of people, families spending precious time together.
Being together with others is an important dimension of our Christmas celebrations and it reflects something at the heart of the Incarnation. Emmanuel is Godwith-us. Christmas celebrates the overwhelming love of God that bursts into the world through the conception and birth of Jesus Christ. The story of Jesus’s birth still has the power to move people, to bring us together to reflect and celebrate, and then to show kindness to one another.
There is a large and beautiful crib at the very heart of the German Market in Birmingham which I recently visited with the Rt Rev David Urquhart, the Anglican Bishop of Birmingham. In this traditional representation of the birth of Christ the figures of shepherds and wise men surrounding the Holy Family once again tell a story that is in danger of being forgotten. It silently witnesses to the values of faith that are more important than ever for the well-being of our cities. One of those values is mentioned in the Benedictus, the Song of Zechariah from St Luke’s Gospel. It speaks of the loving kindness of the heart of our God, who visits us like the dawn from on high. There is something about Christmas that moves us to be kinder and more considerate towards one another. We are living what we celebrate – a sharing in God’s loving kindness that comes to us through Christ like the daylight at the beginning of each day.
There is nothing sentimental about this kindness. It doesn’t depend on warm feelings before it happens. It is the simple desire to see the best in others, as God always shows us the best in ourselves.
Christmas empowers us to be kind in our dealings with others irrespective of whether we feel they deserve it, to give and receive forgiveness.
The spirit of this Christmas season can help us to set aside any differences or divisions that may have burdened us this year. As we come together with our families and friends let’s pray for the grace to forgive the unkindnesses that have hurt us and to show in our own lives the loving kindness of the heart of our God, who visits us like the dawn from on high.
I wish you and your families the blessings of unity and peace this Christmas – gifts that flow from the heart of our God.
CCAARRDDIINNAALLKKEEIITTHHOO’’BBRRIIEENN OOFFEEDDIINNBBUURRGGHHAANNDD SSTTAANNDDRREEWWSS
ITISindeedaprivilegebeingasked todeliveraChristmasmessageat thistime–and,forme,ajoytobe abletousethethemessuggestedby thisyear’sChristmasstamps. Thisyear,inaccordancewitha recentconventionofalternating secularandreligiousthemes,religion andtheGospelstoryoftheNativity isverymuchtothefore.Infact,the 2011Christmasstampsareexceptional,notsimplyinconcept–they adopttheNativitynarrativesof MatthewandLuke’sgospels–butin design.Theyarebeautifullyengagingandcolourfulrenditionsofthat incredible,wonderfulstoryofthe birthofJesusChrist,Godmademan. Thisseriesofstampstellsthat storyandIbelieveitisonewhich oursocietyneedstoheartodaymore thaneverbefore.ThatNativitynarrativeiscontainedinthetwoquotationsfromStMatthew’sGospel, whichremindusthatMarywillgive birthtoasonwhomustbenamed Jesus;andthatthismiraculousbirth fulfilstheprophecyintheOldTestamentthatasonwillbeborncalled Immanuel,anamewhichmeans “Godiswithus”.Aswethinkof thesewords,werealisesomethingof theloveofGodforhispeoplein givingthemhisSon,andwerealise thewonderofthatmessagethatthat SonisGodwhoisstillwithus. Recentreportssuggestthatthe costofachildisnowover£100,000 initsearlyyears.Inthemidstofour plentywemaylavishmanygiftson ournewborn.Yetthinkofthelackof anyexpensivetrappingsinthatbirth inastable,butrealisethatthatchild wassurroundedbywhatismost importantinthelifeofanyperson, namely,basiclove.Weheard recentlythatthepopulationofour worldhasreachedsevenbillion. Iwonderifeachandeverylifeis valuedasitshouldbe,asour Saviourwas. AsatthefirstChristmasshepherds andkings,thepoorandtherich,the deprivedandthemightyaltogether mustrealisethisChristmasmessage oftheloveofGodformankindand oftheresponsethatshouldbegiven byeachandeveryindividualperson intheirownlivestothatcalloflove fromGod. Yes,atthisChristmastimethese wordsshouldgiveusencouragement tocarrythatmessageoflovefrom theNativitysceneintoourcommunities,ourchurchesandourhomes. Godhasindeedshownhislovefor usandgivenhisSon,Jesus,asGodwith-us.Ourresponsemustsurelybe oneoflove,especiallyatthistime: loveofGod,loveofourneighbour, loveofthosewhoareinmostneedat homeandthroughoutourworld.
FARM STREET CHURCH
114 Mount Street London W1K 3AH www.farmstreet.org.uk
Tuesday December 20th, 7pm CHRISTMAS MASS TIMES
Christmas Eve Saturday December 24th
6pm Children’s Mass
(11pm Doors open)
11.30pm Carols 12 Midnight Mass Christmas Day Sunday December 25th 8am, 9.30am (Family Mass)
11am Sung Latin 12.30pm, 4:15pm, 6:15pm (with Soul Choir) Monday December 26th:
Tesco apologises for official calling Christians ‘evil’ ‘Miracle’ mother dies after collapse during Confession
BY SIMON CALDWELL
TESCO has apologised after a senior executive called Christians who oppose gay marriage “evil”.
The supermarket chain distanced itself from Nick Lansley, head of Research and Development for the Tesco website, after he said he was “campaigning against evil Christians” opposed to weddings for gays and lesbians.
In comments posted on his profile page of Flickr.com, the photo-sharing website, Mr Lansley introduced himself as someone who enjoys taking “creative hobby breaks from his job as Head of R&D at Tesco.com”.
But he then added: “I’m also campaigning against evil Christians (that’s not all Christians, just bad ones) who think that gay people should not lead happy lives and get married to their same-sex partners.”
Faced with the mounting prospect of a Christmas boycott of stores by churchgoers across the country the supermarket chain responded by saying Mr Lansley’s remarks “in no way reflect the views of Tesco”.
“Our values as a company are such that we abhor criticism of any religion, and we knew nothing about Mr Lansley’s comments until they were brought to our attention,” a spokesman said.
“We are very sorry that anyone might have thought that there was any blurring of the boundary between his personal comments and his work for Tesco,” he said.
“We have therefore asked him to remove the comments, and he has done so.”
The remarks were posted in 2008 but came to the attention of the public a month after Tesco withdrew its support for the Cancer Research Race for Life while deciding to sponsor Pride London, Britain’s largest gay festival.
Tesco is known for its sympathy for the gay rights movement, with three senior executives supporting a website called “Out at Tesco: Taking Care of Our Gay, Lesbian and Transgendered Staff”.
But leaders of the Church of England, the Catholic Church and most other mainstream denominations are opposed to gay marriage.
Some Christian groups and individuals had already announced plans to boycott Tesco in response to Mr Lansley’s remarks.
Ann Widdecombe, the former Tory Minister and a convert to Catholicism, agreed that Mr Lansley was “entitled to his view” but said: “I think that the words ‘evil’ and ‘Christian’ are paradoxical.
“I don’t usually shop at Tesco anyway,” she added. “I usually shop at Sainsbury’s.”
BY ED WEST
A CATHOLIC mother has died after collapsing during Confession, months after giving birth to a “miracle” baby that survived against overwhelming odds.
Sarah Bradbury, 30, from Portland, Dorset, suddenly fell ill as she made her Confession to Fr Stephen Geddes at St Augustine church in Weymouth. A doctor who was at the Mass tried to resuscitate her until paramedics arrived but she died later in hospital from an undiagnosed gastro-intestinal bleed.
Mrs Bradbury has suffered seven miscarriages, as well losing as another baby within minutes of birth, before giving birth to the “miracle” baby last year.
Along with husband Scott she had tried to start a family for 10 years but had suffered repeated miscarriages due to a medical condition.
She conceived for the ninth time in March 2010 but went into premature labour four months early. Their son Joseph was born at 23 weeks, below the legal limit for abortion in Britain, and weighed just 1lb 6ozs. Doctors gave him a 10 per cent chance of survival, and he had to endure eight blood transfusions and at six weeks underwent live-saving surgery to fix a valve in his heart. He also had to be given treatment to keep his lungs inflated. But he defied the odds and has gone on to grow into a “thriving” baby boy, being allowed home in April this year.
At the time Mrs Bradbury told the Daily Mail that her son was “a complete miracle” and that “it still feels like a dream and I keep thinking I will wake up and somebody will tell me that it isn’t true.”
The couple had attended the Christmas penitential service at St Augustine’s last Tuesday and Mrs Bradbury, a nursing assistant, was making her Confession to Fr Geddes at the time she collapsed.
Fr Geddes said: “It’s very, very sad. She had just begun to make her Confession when it happened.
“They had only been received last April into the Church and were warmly welcomed by parishioners. The parish has been very supportive of them and that was one of the reasons they decided to be received.”
Mr Bradbury, a 36-yearold customer adviser at a bank, said: “She was very generous and caring and cared more about others than herself.
“The one thing that is keeping me going is Joseph. He makes you feel so positive. He doesn’t understand the background but he can sense something is wrong because his mum isn’t around.”
Bishop Hollis thanks flock for ʻoutpouring of prayerʼ IN A CHRISTMAS letter Bishop Crispian Hollis of Portsmouth has thanked parishioners for their support since he was diagnosed with bowel cancer.
He said: “No bishop could have hoped for a greater outpouring of generous love and prayer than I have received.”
Bishop Hollis, who last month celebrated his 75th birthday, is convalescing after two operations. He said he did not have the energy to write Christmas cards. But in a message online he told his flock: “My gratitude to you knows no bounds because you have helped me learn so much about the Lord’s loving providence and how I need to trust in that... as I prepare now for whatever may lie ahead. Thank you all.”
Popeʼs preacher visits Manchester THE PREACHER to the Papal Household has given a talk to the priests of Salford diocese about the presence of the Holy Spirit in a priest’s life.
Fr Raniero Cantalamessa OFM, who was given his title by Blessed Pope John Paul II in 1980, and for 20 years preached for the Pope on Fridays during Advent and Lent, spoke to priests at St Kentigern’s in Fallowfield, Manchester. He said: “Nothing needs to stop a priest from being intimate with God, since his love has been poured into the hearts of all, as St Paul himself said.”
He said that the Holy Spirit opens “our minds to understand Scripture, to see how true it is and that it is the word of God – the passionate word of a father to his children... The love of Scripture which results from receiving the Holy Spirit is unbelievable.”
He added: “Only the love of God can make a priest an effective instrument of Jesus Christ.”
Rev star to read at Cathedral TOM HOLLANDER, the actor who plays an Anglican priest in the BBC show Rev, was to give a reading at Westminster Cathedral’s Christmas celebration this Tuesday.
The actor, who plays an inner-city vicar struggling with diocesan authorities and shrinking congregations, was due to do a reading alongside newsreader Alastair Stewart, former politician Michael Portillo, and writer Peter Stanford.
Bishops go to jail at Christmas THREE Westminster bishops are to celebrate Masses at prisons on Christmas Day.
Auxiliary bishops Alan Hopes, John Arnold and John Sherrington will between them visit Feltham Young Offenders’ Institution, Wormwood Scrubs and the Mount Prison in Bovingdon. Bishop Arnold said it was “truly a great joy” to celebrate Mass at Feltham and that he was “always very moved by the respect” shown for Mass.
Gordon Ramsay to feed the poor GORDON RAMSAY will be volunteering at a Catholic soup kitchen on Christmas Day, it emerged this week. The television chef will be helping out at St Mary Magdalene church in Brighton.
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THE ARCHBISHOP of Southwark has welcomed a Government promise to protect freedom of conscience following the introduction of civil partnerships on religious premises.
The Government has come under increasing criticism from religious groups since the introduction of regulations to permit civil partnerships on religious premises without a debate in the House of Commons.
But an assurance was successfully sought from the Government in the House of Lords last Thursday when Baroness O’Cathain, a Conservative peer, tabled a motion to overturn existing regulations.
Baroness O’Cathain withdrew
Bishops welcome Government assurance on civil unions BY MADELEINE TEAHAN
the motion following assurances from Government Minister Lord Henley that no religious person would be forced to permit a civil partnership on their premises.
Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark welcomed the outcome of the debate. On behalf of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales he said: “I was very glad to read the clear assurance given by Lord Henley for the Government in the debate in the House of Lords on December 15 on civil partnerships in religious premises.
“We had sought such an assurance to avoid any legal challenge to the regulations and to make clear beyond any doubt that the regulations and the Equality Act safeguard the legitimate freedom of churches not to allow such ceremonies on their own premises.
“At the end of the debate the Minister gave a very clear assurance to this effect, and said: ‘It is proper to say that it is Parliament’s intention that that is the position.’”
Speaking in the debate in the House of Lords, Lord Henley said: “We recognise that in allowing this expression of religious freedom and advancement for lesbian, gay and bisexual equality, we need to ensure that there are sufficient protections from legal challenge for faith groups who do not wish to host partnerships on their premises.
“We are confident that faith groups will not be forced to host civil partnership registrations on their premises if they do not wish to do so.”
In a briefing note circulated to peers ahead of the debate, the bishops said: “While we believe that the regulations do provide necessary legal protection, our understanding of the position does not amount to a legal certainty, and some legal opinions suggest that there are circumstances in which it is conceivable that a church might possibly be challenged for not consenting to civil partnerships on its premises. And, as has been noted, this is an area of law which is new and evolving where lobby groups will want to test the boundaries.
“Unsurprisingly, some religious groups remain very concerned about what may only be a theoretical possibility, but which would nonetheless be very damaging if it came to pass. And even if a challenge were unlikely to succeed, no church should have to face the concern and legal expense involved given that the Government’s intentions were to protect their free choice.”
Catholic MP Edward Leigh also tried to overturn the regulations in the House of Commons but the Government did not schedule a debate.
The Government’s latest reassurance is particularly significant for campaigners on both sides of the debate because of a landmark ruling in 1992 known as “Pepper versus Heart”.
Since this ruling, when questions of legal ambiguity arise judges may refer to statements made previously in Parliament in order to determine what exactly the implications of certain laws are and what Parliament did and did not intend when the law was passed.
The bishops’ conference and other religious campaigners will be reassured that Lord Henley’s statement will mitigate the threat of future legal challenges to churches who refuse to host civil partnerships.
Following the Sexual Orientations Regulations in 2007 controversy surrounding religious freedoms and gay rights has escalated.
A gay couple were awarded £1,800 in damages at the beginning of this year when a Christian couple who owned a bed and breakfast refused to give the couple a double bed because they believed that sex outside marriage was a sin.
Catholic adoption agencies which conscientiously object to placing children with gay couples have also been forced to sever ties with their Catholic diocese or close down following the Sexual Orientations Regulations.
The Coalition has also announced its intention to legalise gay marriage before the next election.
The Government will launch a formal consultation on the initiative next spring, during which Archbishop Smith has said that the bishops’ conference will oppose legislation in “the strongest terms”.
David Cameron: Christianity has shaped Britain
Helen Mirren gives award to Sister who founded Aids charity
BY DAVID V BARRETT
DAVID CAMERON has said that Christian values have made Britain what it is today and that people should not be afraid to stand up and defend them.
The Prime Minister’s speech at Christ Church, Oxford, was part of the 400th anniversary celebrations of the King James Bible.
Mr Cameron described himself as a “committed” but “vaguely practising Church of England Christian”. While he would stand up for the values and principles of his faith, he said, he was “full of doubts” and “constantly grappling with the difficult questions when it comes to some of the big theological issues”.
“We are a Christian country and we should not be afraid to say so. Let me be clear: I am not in any way saying that to have another faith – or no faith – is somehow wrong. I know and fully respect that many people in this country do not have a religion. And I am also incredibly proud that Britain is home to many different faith communities, who do so much to make our country stronger,” he said.
“But what I am saying is that the Bible has helped to give Britain a set of values and morals which make
Britain what it is today, values and morals we should actively stand up and defend. The alternative of moral neutrality should not be an option. You can’t fight something with nothing. Because if we don’t stand for something, we can’t stand against anything.”
Calling Britain a Christian country, Mr Cameron said, does not mean “doing down” other faiths, because “it is easier for people to believe and practise other faiths when Britain has confidence in its Christian identity”.
“Many people tell me it is much easier to be Jewish or Muslim here in Britain than it is in a secular country like France,” he said. “Why? Because the tolerance that Christianity demands of our society provides greater space for other religious faiths too.”
He said it was right for the Church to get involved in politics, but that comments could go both ways.
“I certainly don’t object to the Archbishop of Canterbury expressing his views on politics. Religion has a moral basis and if he doesn’t agree with something he’s right to say so. But just as it is legitimate for religious leaders to make political comments, he shouldn’t be surprised when I respond.”
People often say that politicians shouldn’t “do God”, he said, referring to a remark by Tony Blair’s spin doctor Alistair Campbell. “If by that they mean we shouldn’t try to claim a direct line to God for one particular political party, they could not be more right. But we shouldn’t let our caution about that stand in the way of recognising... how incredibly important faith is to so many people in Britain.”
Colin Bloom, executive director of Conservative Christian Fellowship, said he was “delighted” by the comments.
He said: “For too long political leaders have been afraid to talk about faith or the importance of Christianity in our nation. In David Cameron we have a leader who is not afraid to speak about his religious convictions.”
Andy Flannagan, director of the Christian Socialist Movement, was more cautious. “There genuinely is much to welcome here,” he said. “We must remember, however, that Scripture is a challenging double-edged sword that cuts to the core of whether our thoughts and actions are truly Christ-like, rather than a butter knife we might use to spread a veneer of safe respectability, appointing ourselves as a ‘Christian nation’.”
SISTER Raphaela Händler, who has spent 30 years caring for people with HIV and Aids in Africa, received a prize last week from actress Dame Helen Mirren during the “Ein Herz für Kinder” (A Heart for Children) telethon in Berlin.
She was presented with the “Golden Heart” award at the annual event where celebrities get together to raise money for children across the world. This year the televised event raised €14 million (£12 million).
Sister Händler founded
Catholic Aids Action in 1998, alongside Lucy Steinitz, through the Namibian Catholic bishops’ conference as Namibia’s first Church-based response to the country’s HIV/Aids crisis. It is currently operating 14 offices in nine of the 13 regions.
Catholic Aids Action says it has four principal focuses: homebased family care and counselling, youth education and prevention, care and support to orphans and vulnerable children and voluntary counselling and testing.
Christmas Service Times Sunday 18th December - Fourth Sunday of Advent
Mass 8, 9, 10.30am (Solemn)*, 12, 5.30, 7pm
Morning Prayer 10am Cathedral Carol Service* 3.30pm Confessions 11am-1pm; 4.30-7pm
Monday 19th December Mass 7, 8, 10.30am (Latin), 12.30, 1.05, 5.30pm (Solemn)*
Morning Prayer 7.40am; Vespers* 5pm
Confessions 10.30am – 6pm Tuesday 20th and Wednesday 21st December
Mass in the Crypt 7, 8, 10.30am (Latin). Mass in the Hall 12.30, 1.05, 5.30pm
Morning Prayer 7.40am (Crypt);
Evening Prayer 5pm (Hall) Confessions 10.30am – 5pm Christmas Celebration* 7.30pm (entry by ticket only) The Cathedral closes at 5pm, and re-opens in the evening for Christmas Celebration ticket holders only
Thursday 22nd December Mass 7, 8, 10.30am (Latin), 12.30, 1.05, 5.30pm (Solemn)*
Morning Prayer 7.40am; Vespers* 5pm
Confessions 10.30am – 6pm Friday 23rd December Mass: 7, 8, 10.30am (Latin), 12.30, 1.05, 5.30pm (Solemn)*
Morning Prayer 7.40am; Vespers* 5pm
Confessions 10.30am – 6pm Saturday 24th December – Christmas Eve Mass: 8, 9, 10.30am (Solemn Latin)*, 12.30pm
First Mass of Christmas 6pm Morning Prayer 10am; First Vespers of Christmas* 4pm
Confessions 10.30am – 3.30pm TheCathedralclosesbrieflyafterthe6pmMass
Vigil and Midnight Mass* 11.15pm Sunday 25th December – Christmas Day Mass 8, 9, 10.30am (Solemn)*, 12pm (with carols), 5.30pm.
No 7pm Mass.
Morning Prayer 10am; Vespers and Benediction* 3.30pm
No Confessions today TheCathedralclosesat6.15pm The Cathedral Choir sings at services marked with an asterisk*
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