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Miliband accused of dragging bishops into referendum row
ALSO IN THIS WEEK’S ISSUE
THEFOREIGNSECRETARYused the Catholic bishops to help push through the controversial EU Lisbon Treaty without a popular vote, it was claimed this week. David Miliband told Parliament that a number of charities supported the treaty, including “the commission of bishops” – by which he meant the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE), to which the bishops of England and Wales belong. Catholic Tory MP Edward Leigh has accused Mr Miliband of compromising the bishops’ impartiality. He said: “For a Foreign Secretary to drag the bishops into a debate about a contentious treaty is ludicrous, let alone using them to support not having a referendum. This is underhand politics.” Daniel Hannan, the independent Eurosceptic MEP, said that the row could stoke up prejudices against Catholics by making it appear that the bishops were helping the EU resist a popular vote. “The oldest prejudice about Catholics is the idea that they bow to foreign powers,” he said. “The Church must be very careful to preserve its neutrality on this ultra-sensitive issue.” Speaking in the House of Commons in January, Mr Miliband cited the NSPCC, Oxfam and “the commission of bishops” as examples of independent bodies supporting the signing of the Lisbon Treaty without a referendum. The Conservatives maintain that the treaty is the rejected European Constitution under another name, and should not be signed without a popular mandate. COMECE supports most of
Foreign Secretary David Miliband looks on as Prime Minister Gordon Brown speaks to reporters at the EU summit in Brussels AP
the Lisbon Treaty but has no official policy on the referendum. Its members are Catholic bishops who monitor and advise the EU, but are independent of it. However, once the Lisbon Treaty is ratified, COMECE will have “a fixed and official relationship with the EU”, its spokeswoman said this week. As a result, say Eurosceptics, Europe’s Catholic bishops will have been drawn into the machinery of the European
Union. Auxiliary Bishop William Kenney of Birmingham, who is the COMECE representative for England and Wales, could not be reached for comment before The Catholic Heraldwent to press. The impartiality of the bishops of England and Wales on the subject of the EU has been called into question in the past, when the bishops were accused by critics of lending their support to the European Constitution. In 2004 The Catholic Herald
reported that the bishops faced a storm of protest after they had urged “all Catholics to take part in the European elections” and appeared “to be calling for a Yes vote in next year’s referendum”. At the time, the bishops’ conference had released a statement, which said that Europe “requires not just democratic and accountable institutions but also a moral vision”. It said: “A constitutional treaty that helps secure these, and enjoys popular legitimacy, is vital
if enlargement is to be a success.” The bishops’ adviser on foreign affairs, Fr Frank Turner, said: “A constitution is better than no constitution”. Fr Turner insisted that the statement was impartial but the bishops were nevertheless criticised by Eurosceptics. Calls for a referendum were quashed in the Commons and the Bill ratifying the Lisbon Treaty was passed with a Government majority of 63 in mid-March but
29 Labour MPs rebelled as did some Liberal Democrats. The Bill is now in the House of Lords, where two former chancellors were lobbying for a cross-party push for a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. Lord Lawson and Lord Lamont have been trying to rally Labour and Liberal Democrat peers as well as the Anglican bishops behind an amendment they are hoping to table, which calls for Labour to honour its election promise on a referendum on the constitution. Labour has defended its decision to push for the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty without a popular vote by saying that it is not a constitutional treaty. Prime Minister Gordon Brown signed the Lisbon Treaty on December 13, 2007. His late appearance at the official signing provoked an outcry at the time, and it was suggested that he was trying to avoid “bad publicity” – an accusation he strongly denied. Ireland was the only country to hold a referendum on the treaty this year. The 26 other signatory countries are ratifying the treaty in their respective parliaments. Pope Benedict XVI sharply criticised the European Union on its 50th anniversary last year for leaving out any mention of Europe’s Christian heritage in its anniversary declaration. He said: “If on the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome the governments of the union want to get closer to their citizens, how can they exclude an element as essential to the identity of Europe as Christianity, in which the vast majority of its people continue to identify? Does not this unique form of apostasy of itself, even before God, lead it [Europe] to doubt its very identity?”
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Vatican prepares to recognise the heroic virtues of John Paul II
THEREPORTdocumenting the heroic virtues of Pope John Paul II is nearly ready, the postulator of his Cause for beatification has announced. Mgr Slawomir Oder’s announcement, which means the last Pope is nearing beatification, came on Monday, just two days before the third anniversary of his death. “In recent days, I have turned in a nearly definitive draft of the positio, the report that collects all of the documents ordered in a systematic and organised way about his pontificate,” Mgr Oder told Vatican Radio. “We’re dealing with some 2,000 pages
that need to be edited, but that overall can be considered completed.” The priest reported that it falls to the relator of the Cause, Dominican Fr Daniel Ols, of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, “after having examined the collection of material, to give his approval for the official presentation. “For the time being, it’s premature to announce a definitive date for the final turning in,” Mgr Oder added. Cardinal Joséé Saraiva Martííns, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, announced: “I can guarantee that as soon as we receive the positio, we will study it immediately without
losing a moment, since obviously this dicastery desires that John Paul II arrives as soon as possible to the altars and can be called ‘blessed,’ and thus respond to the shouts in St Peter’s Square, santo subito(‘sainthood now’).” Various theologians will study the document and if it is approved Benedict XVI could then grant a decree in recognition of the Polish pope’s heroic virtue, which would permit proclaiming John Paul II as Venerable. To be beatified, a miracle needs to be attributed to his intercession. Earlier this week a Vatican spokesman said no decision had yet been made on whether to move the tomb of
Pope John Paul II to a more prominent place on the main level of St Peter’s Basilica. Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi said that “no decision on the matter will be made before beatification” of John Paul II. He denied reports that a Vatican commission already had met to determine the tomb’s new location. The tomb, visited by millions of people every year, is located in a papal burial area in the grotto underneath the Basilica. According to reports, the plan to move the pope’s tomb has been studied and approved by a Vatican commission.
Lobby group pushes Popeto back total tobacco ban
ANAMERICANcampaign group has urged Benedict XVI to ban smoking in Vatican City. Physicians and Nurses Against Tobacco, based in Rhode Island, has launched an online petition calling on the
Pope to establish the world’s first tobacco-free state. “We hope to convince him to make this gesture as an example to other religious and political leaders and policymakers,” the petition says. The Vatican banned smoking in offices and public places five years ago but visitors and employees can still smoke outdoors. Bishop Renato Boccardo, secretary general of the Vatican City governor’s office, admits that at first the ban was ignored. “For a while, even after the no
smoking rule, people still smoked. But now it’s entered into the general mentality,” he said. Bishop Boccardo caused controversy some years ago when he prohibited smoking on the official papal plane. Journalists and members of the papal entourage had been allowed to light up on the chartered plane even though the Alitalia airline had banned in-flight smoking years before. They had been encouraged to do so by the free cartons of cigarettes that Alitalia gave each passenger.
New bishop ordained for Lancaster
Fr Michael Campbell has become the first Augustinian bishop in England since the Reformation. Full story: Page 2
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