THE MONKS WHO FACED TERRORISM WITH LOVE ANDREW M BROWN ON AN UPLIFTING NEW FILM ABOUT MARTYRDOM PAGE 14
Cricket-mad aristocrat to be declared Venerable
December 3 2010 £1.20 (Republic of Ireland €1.70)
BY SIMON CALDWELL
THE CATHOLIC Church has taken a decisive step along the road to canonising a priest related to Princes William and Harry.
The Vatican has completed a 14year investigation into the life and works of Fr Ignatius Spencer and has concluded that he lived a life of “heroic virtue”. This means that the Church is now ready to search for the two miracles needed to declare the 19th-century cricket-mad English aristocrat a saint.
Princes William and Harry are related to Fr Spencer through their late mother Diana, Princess of Wales. Both members of the Spencer family, he was her great-great-greatuncle and also a great-uncle of Winston Churchill.
A committee of Vatican cardinals will convene in the near future to issue a certificate of validity. Pope Benedict XVI can then give Fr Spencer the title “Venerable”. The announcement is expected just two years after a tribunal in the Archdiocese of Liverpool found nothing in either the work or 22 volumes of writings by Fr Spencer to suggest he did not live a life of “heroic virtue”, and referred his case to Rome.
Fr Ben Lodge, the postulator for the Cause for canonisation of Fr Spencer, said the Vatican’s decision to proceed with the case was unrelated to the engagement of Prince William to Kate Middleton. “Ignatius will ultimately be canonised for his heroic work for Christian unity, not because of whom he is related to,” said Fr Lodge, a Passionist based in Newton Stewart, Scotland.
“Ignatius was also from one of the top five wealthiest families in Britain yet he gave it all up because he felt he was called to a life of poverty,” he said.
Fr Lodge said that once the certificate of validity has been issued the Vatican will appoint a relator to write a positio, a biography of Fr Spencer which shows his good works in their historical context. Fr Spencer was given the name George when he was born at Admiralty House in 1799, the youngest son of the 2nd Earl Spencer, the First Lord of the Admiralty.
He grew up at the Spencer family home at Althorp, Northamptonshire, where Lady Diana was buried after she was killed in a Paris car crash in August 1997. As a child he would have met such people as Lord Nelson, Sir Joshua Reynolds and Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who were regular visitors to the family home.
But he turned his back on a life of immense wealth and comfort by converting to the Catholic faith, a move which horrified his contemporaries.
He later joined the newly formed Passionist order and was ordained priest under the name Fr Ignatius of St Paul. He then worked for the conversion of England to the Catholic faith until his death in 1864.
Church scholars say he was also about 150 years ahead of his time in his commitment to the “unity in truth” of all Christians, a theme later embraced by the Second Vatican Council. He has been credited with “preparing the ground” for the ecumenical movement of northern Europe in the late 20th century.
The Eton-educated priest also had a great affection for the poor and on one occasion chose to nurse a woman dying in a workhouse rather than attend the opening of a church.
In spite of his commitment to his faith Fr Spencer retained a great love for cricket, which he described as “my mania”. He often organised matches among the servants of his household as a young man and later he taught students to the priesthood to play while dean of St Mary’s seminary in Oscott, Birmingham.
His body is entombed in St Anne’s Catholic church in St Helens, Merseyside, alongside Blessed Dominic Barberi Sister Elizabeth Prout, founder of the Passionist Sisters whose Cause for sainthood has also been opened.
Pope Benedict XVI arrives at St Peter’s for an evening prayer service that was part of a worldwide pro-life vigil marking the beginning of Advent Photo: PA
Pope starts Advent with prayers for unborn
BY JOHN THAVIS IN ROME
POPE BENEDICT XVI has welcomed the beginning of Advent with a prayer for life and a defence of the rights of unborn children.
The Pope presided over an evening prayer service at the Vatican on the eve of the First Sunday of Advent as part of a worldwide pro-life vigil. He said it was an appropriate initiative to launch Advent, the liturgical period in which the Church prepares to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
In a homily, he said the Church’s teaching against abortion came from its teaching about the dignity of every human life and its concern that the unborn are most vulnerable to “the selfishness of adults and the clouding of consciences”.
“There are cultural tendencies that seek to anaesthetise consciences with spurious arguments,” the Pope said.
Regarding the human embryo, the Pope said science itself had demonstrated the embryo’s autonomous capacity of interaction with the mother, the co-ordination of its biological processes, the continuity of its development and its complexity as an organism. “It’s not a question of a collection of biological material, but of a new living being, dynamic and marvellously ordered, a new individual of the human species,” he said.
“This is how Jesus was in Mary’s womb; this is how we each were, in our mothers’ wombs,” he said.
The Pope cited the early Church author Tertullian, who reasoned that abortion was wrong because, as he wrote: “He is a man, who is to be a man.” The Pope said “there is no reason not to consider him a person from the moment of conception”.
Pope Benedict emphasised that the threat to human life does not end at birth. He said children today are often subject to abandonment, hunger, poverty, disease, abuse, violence and exploitation. Faced with this “sad panorama of injustices” before and after birth the Church calls everyone to responsibility, he said.
He urged leaders in politics, economics and communications to do everything possible to promote a culture that respects human life and to establish a network of services that support human life. On the First Sunday of Advent the Pope spoke to pilgrims from his apartment window about the importance of “expectant waiting” in the period before Christmas and in people’s lives in general.
“We think of the expectation of a child by a married couple, or of a visit by a distant relative or friend. We think of a young person who awaits the outcome of a decisive examination, or a meeting at work,” he said.
“One can say that a person is alive as long as he is expectant, as long as hope lives in his heart,” he said.
Editorial comment: Page 13
Pope Benedict interviewed!
What caused the clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church? Was there a “cover up”? Can there be a genuine dialogue with Islam? What hopes now for
Christian unity? How does the Pope think we should respond to climate change? How did the Pope feel when he was elected? Can the Church re-think its approach to Aids?
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US diplomats predicted Belgian cardinal would be elected pope
BY ANNA ARCO
POPE BENEDICT XVI’s election to the papacy took American diplomats by surprise, it emerged this week. They predicted that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger would get a flurry of votes from his fellow cardinals at the beginning of the conclave but would be unable to muster support after that.
An April 19 2005 telegram from Rome to Washington signed by Brent Hardt said diplomats were “shocked” and
“speechless” about the election of Cardinal Ratzinger.
According to State Department documents obtained by La Stampa, the Italian newspaper, diplomats at the US Embassy to the Holy See listed 16 papabile, or candidates for the papacy, on April 18 2005, the day the conclave began.
Diplomats had drawn up an earlier document for the then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice only days after John Paul II died in which they had outlined the likely characteristics of the Pope’s successor.
The document, which was classified as “sensitive”, described the next pope as a man who was neither too old nor too young so as to avoid having a funeral and conclave too soon, but also to “avoid a papacy as long as John Paul II’s”. The future pope, they believed, needed to speak Italian in order to control the Vatican’s bureaucracy but would not necessarily be Italian. They thought it unlikely the candidate would be from Eastern Europe or America because of its status as the last remaining superpower. The future pope, they wrote, would need to have pastoral experience to show his human side and be a good communicator with new media skills.
Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels was among those tipped by US diplomats. They said he “knows how to use a computer” and represented the best compromise between doctrine and liberalism.
Two English bishops tie for most rosaries
Film about Notting Hill nuns wins award
BY ANNA ARCO
THE ARCHBISHOP of Birmingham and the Bishop of Arundel and Brighton have tied as the most prayed for bishops in England, Wales and Scotland.
More people pledged to pray rosaries for Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham and Bishop Kieran Conry of Arundel and Brighton than for any other bishop in Britain on a rosary-praying website.
On Rosary for the Bishop the Catholic faithful can pledge to pray rosaries for their bishop over a period of time and a calendar counts how many people are praying for a bishop at any point.
In England and Wales Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark closely followed Archbishop Longley and Bishop Conry, while Bishop Malcolm MacMahon of Nottingham and Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster tied for third place.
Rosary for the Bishop began in the diocese of Wisconsin five years ago.
BY ED WEST
A DOCUMENTARY about Carmelite nuns in West London has won a prestigious film award in Berlin.
Michael Whyte’s documentary No Greater Love, about a closed order in Notting Hill, was awarded the Best Feature Film Audience Award at the 10th Britspotting Festival in Berlin. It beat competition from films including Michael Winterbottom’s Genova and Armando Iannucci’s In The Loop to win the €14,000 (£11,711) award.
The film originally came about after Mr Whyte put a note in the nuns’ letterbox in the late 1990s proposing the idea to them.
They initially turned him down but after 10 years he received a call from the prioress agreeing to it.
Every day of filming he arrived in the monastery before Lauds at 6.45am and left after Compline at about 8pm. Yorkshireborn Mr Whyte graduated from film school in 1972.
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