THE CATHOLIC HERALD APRIL 6 2012
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Archbishop asked Hague to lobby Israel over wall BY MADELEINE TEAHAN
THE ARCHBISHOP of Westminster lobbied the Foreign Secretary to address the “tragic situation” faced by Christians in the West Bank last November, it has emerged.
Information obtained through the Freedom of Information Act showed that Archbishop Vincent Nichols wrote to William Hague about the displacement of Palestinians due to the construction of the Israeli security wall in Beit Jala, Bethlehem.
In a letter to the Foreign Secretary, Archbishop Nichols referred to the “catastrophic impact” on the village following the “expropriation” of land by Israel.
In his letter the archbishop described his pilgrimage to the Middle East. He spent eight days in
Israel and the Palestinian territories. He wrote: “While we were there, we visited the parish of the Annunciation in Beit Jala. There we learned of the crisis that has engulfed the parish, due to a recent announcement of annexations of land for the building of a further section of the ‘separation/security wall’ by the Israeli authorities,” he wrote.
“It is my understanding that in the past few weeks, expropriation orders have been handed to 57 families in Beit Jala, removing from them their land, their means of livelihood and, in many cases, their family homes.”
He went on: “This step is a continuation of a long process of expropriation of land by Israel, going far beyond the 1967 border and damaging the very viability of the two-state solution. I will be raising this matter directly with the Israeli ambassador but I do hope that you might be able to consider using British influence to try and persuade the Israeli authorities to reverse their declared decision in this regard. It is precisely this kind of case that will provide a basis for either a just peace or continued conflict.”
The disclosure give a fresh significance to the archbishop’s homily at Midnight Mass in Westminster Cathedral last year, during which he offered prayers for Christians in Bethlehem who he said risked losing their homes.
During his sermon he referred to “shadows” which disfigure our world. He said: “That shadow falls particularly heavily on the town of Bethlehem tonight. At this moment the people of the parish of Beit Jala prepare for their legal battle to protect their land and homes from further expropriation by Israel.
“Over 50 families face losing their land and their homes as action is taken to complete the separation/security wall across the district of Bethlehem. We pray for them tonight.”
The controversial barrier, which runs for 470 miles along the West Bank, was built to prevent suicide bombers from attacking Israel, but locals have argued that the barrier is damaging the economy as well as displacing Palestinians.
Beit Jala is home to several Orthodox and Catholic churches and seminaries.
In Bethlehem, the barrier runs past private homes, including the house belonging to a Catholic family known as the Anastases. Their house faces the 30ft high wall on three sides.
Mr Hague replied to the letter, saying that he was continuing to make representations to the Israeli government to “argue for a just outcome for all the people affected by illegal settlement construction and the confiscation of land due to the separation barrier”.
He also said that the Department for International Development and the British Consulate General were helping Palestinian legal teams to redirect the barrier away from the village.
Following the archbishop’s comments at Midnight Mass last year, an Israeli embassy spokesman wrote to The Catholic Herald to raise concerns about the homily. The spokesman said: “Nobody in the parish of Bet Jala will be evicted or have their homes demolished. Any attempt to claim or to hint otherwise is simply untrue to say the least.
He added: “I would also like to take this opportunity to remind your readers that there are over 150,000 Christians currently living in Israel, achieving across all walks of Israeli society, at all stages of life. To look at just two of the most important, education and work. Christian Arabs have had the highest rates of success in the matriculation examinations, both in comparison to the Muslims, the Druze or the Jewish students. The percentage of unemployment among Christians is 4.9 per cent. In comparison, the rate of unemployment among Jews is 6.5 per cent.
“Since Israel reunited Jerusalem in 1967, religious freedom once more became a given. The state does not intervene in the activities of the churches and the institutions that are dependent on them.
“In a world in which the basic Christian way of life is being threatened in Egypt and Nigeria to name but two states, and despite Israel itself being threatened by our neighbours, we remain an island of tolerance and freedom where religion is and always will be protected by the state,” the spokesman wrote.
“We are also in no doubt that the archbishop, in next year’s homily for Midnight Mass, will fully sympathise with the people in Jerusalem being under constant threats from Beit Jala, a situation that has improved no end since the Israeli security measures have been introduced.”
NHS trust drops its threat to sack pro-life nurse
BY SIMON CALDWELL
A CATHOLIC nurse threatened with the sack for refusing to work on an abortion ward has won her case without going to court.
The staff nurse, who does not wish to be named, persuaded the NHS trust that employs her that her right to conscientious objection was protected by Section 4 of the 1967 Abortion Act and that she should not be forced to work in a Termination of Pregnancy clinic attached to the hospital.
Neil Addison of the Thomas More Legal Centre, the barrister who represented the nurse, also informed the trust in a letter that her conviction that human life began from conception was a “philosophical” and religious belief protected by the 2010 Equality Act and also by Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
He warned the trust that any attempt to pressure the nurse to change her mind or to suggest to her that her career prospects might suffer would breach laws against harassment and discrimination.
After taking legal advice, the trust, which is in the Midlands, has now dropped its threat of dismissal and assigned the nurse to alternative duties.
The nurse, a married mother-of-two who is in her early 40s, said her ordeal began when she doubled the work she undertook at the hospital from 15 to 30 hours after her three-year-old son began at nursery.
She said she was not informed when she agreed to extra hours that she would be required to fill in at the hospital’s abortion clinic. Within two months, however, her name was added to the rota and she complained that she could not work in the clinic in good conscience.
Although she was raised a Catholic, she said the sight of an unborn child aborted at 23 weeks when she was working in a hospital in 1999 had also left her convinced that abortion was wrong.
“It is a form of killing, to be honest,” she said. “That’s how I view it. I’m not being judgmental about people. I know there are cases of rape and all sorts of reasons why people do it to end the life of their child, because some way or another they are in a predicament and they see no way out, I suppose, but I just don’t want to participate in it.”
She said that it was pointed out to her that she would not be required to perform the act of abortion but only to prepare women for the procedure.
But she said that in her view that would make her culpable in an act she objected to on grounds of conscience.
The nurse also said that it was put to her by colleagues that other Catholics worked on the abortion ward, one of whom also served as Eucharistic minister in her local church.
“I said: ‘I can’t be responsible for other people’s beliefs. I can only speak for myself’,” the nurse explained.
Mr Addison said that in his opinion the nurse was clearly protected by the conscientious objection clause of the 1967 Act.
He said it was right for nurses to provide medical care on general NHS wards for women who had undergone abortions. But he said to prepare a woman for an abortion would be actively participating in the procedure.
This particular nurse, he said, was being asked to work “unambiguously in the Termination of Pregnancy clinic”.
“It has got to be protected by the [Abortion] Act,” Mr Addison said.
Church appeals for £24,000 to save murals by French filmmaker
NOTRE DAME de France church in central London is appealing for funds to restore murals created by the renowned artist Jean Cocteau.
The murals were created in 1960 when the Leicester Square church was rebuilt following the
Second World War. But the murals are now in need of urgent restoration and the church has commissioned a team of specialist restorers who have worked on other chapels that Cocteau decorated in France. The total cost is thought to be around £24,000.
The church has already raised £10,500. Donations can be made at Bmycharity.com/ refurbishcocteau.
The murals depict the Annunciation and the Crucifixion, and were conceived by Mgr René Varin, the cultural adviser in
London, and the French ambassador invited Cocteau, artist, writer, filmmaker and poet, to draw them. He then spent eight days in November 1959 drawing the scenes, beginning the day by lighting a candle before the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Ordinariate priest featured in anti-apartheid musical
BY MARK GREAVES
A FORMER Anglican bishop ordained a Catholic priest is one of the stars of an antiapartheid musical in South Africa, it has emerged.
Fr Robert Mercer, 77, was deported from South Africa in 1970 for his stand against apartheid, along with several other Anglican priests.
He and other members of the Anglican Community of the Resurrection defied segregation laws by running a multi-racial parish.
They were, says Fr Mercer, “deemed to be a corrupting influence on students” at Stellenbosch University, where they worked as chaplains. One of the Anglican priests was jailed.
Their stand has been dramatised in a multimedia pop musical called Brothers, which ran for five nights at Stellenbosch University, the country’s top Africaans university.
The musical was performed in September 2010 in a mix of Africaans and English and was directed by Peter Krummeck.
Fr Mercer, who grew up in Zimbabwe, went on to become Bishop of Matabeleland, Zimbabwe, in the Anglican Province of Central Africa, in the midst of a civil war.
He was bishop for 11 years before leaving the Anglican Communion to join the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada, part of the worldwide Traditional Anglican
From left: Mgr Newton, Fr Mercer and Bishop Hopes
Communion (TAC). He served as metropolitan bishop from 1988 to 2005, when he retired to England.
Fr Mercer was received in January and was ordained a priest for the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham on Monday.
He said that Pope Benedict XVI’s offer of an ordinariate to Anglicans in 2009 was “an answer to our prayers, to our dreams”.
He said he had been longing for Christian unity since the early 1980s, when Pope John Paul II and Robert Runcie, Archbishop of Canterbury, issued a declaration thanking God for “the progress that has been made in the work of reconciliation”.
He and his clergy in Zimbabwe began working through ARCIC documents and even met Vatican officials in Rome.
In 1985 Fr Mercer met Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger,
then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to talk about the prospect of Anglicans being reconciled with Rome.
Fr Mercer said the future Pope was “the humblest, gentlest, most sympathetic person I think I’ve ever met”.
He said: “I came away thinking if ever I had done wrong and wanted to tell someone about it, it would be him I’d want to tell.”
Three years later he joined the TAC, an umbrella group of breakaway Anglicans, serving as a bishop in Canada.
In 2007 Fr Mercer was one of about 30 leaders of the TAC who signed a letter to Rome asking to be received into full communion with the Catholic Church. Weeks ago, however, many of the TAC’s bishops announced that they would not be joining a personal ordinariate and would be staying “fully Anglican”.
In parts of Europe God is unmissed, say bishops
BY SARAH MACDONALD
EUROPE today is a culture in which God appears to be “silent and unmissed in the lives of many”, the Irish bishops have said in a pastoral letter.
The 12-page document, “Repent and Believe the Good News”, deals with the importance of repentance for the Irish Catholic Church.
In their discussion of the Ireland’s context in Europe, the bishops said that today there were “many spheres of life in which even believers rarely recognise the relevance of the Gospel”.
They reiterated Pope Benedict XVI’s question of whether the West, “the heartlands of Christianity”, is tired of its faith, bored by its history and culture, and no longer wishes to know faith in Jesus Christ.
Explaining their reason for promoting repentance, they said the reflection builds on the summons to renewal made by Pope Benedict to the Catholics of Ireland in his 2010 pastoral letter. It is also a motif emphasized in the summary of the findings of the apostolic visitation in Ireland. That summary was released in mid-March.
“None of us remains unaffected by our culture,” the pastoral reflection says, adding that it “takes a real effort in a busy and noisy world to ask the fundamental questions about what our lives mean and where they are leading”.
This Lent, countless parishioners across England and Wales, both young and old, gave something up and donated the money they saved to CAFOD. These efforts were matched pound-for-pound by the government.
“I would like to say thank you for thinking about us. Having clean water to drink is a gi . It makes everything seem possible. Zimi, 10, Zimbabwe
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For every £1 you give, the Government will give £1, helping us to change even more lives.
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Registered Charity No. 285776 Photograph: Simon Rawles