Archive of February 10, 2008

Anglican clergymen uhappy with archbishop’s proposal of Sharia in UK

London, England, Feb 10, 2008 (CNA) - Senior Church of England clergymen are criticizing the Archbishop of Canterbury for his remarks about accommodating Islamic Sharia law in Britain, The Evening Standard reports.

On Thursday night Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the highest-ranking cleric of the Church of England, gave a radio interview in which he suggested it was “unavoidable” that some form of Sharia law would be introduced in Britain.  He said that Sharia and Parliamentary law should be given equal status in some areas so that people could choose which governs their lives. 

"This may include aspects of marital law, the regulation of financial transactions, and authorized structures of mediation and conflict resolution," the Archbishop of Canterbury said, noting analogous Jewish courts already operate in Britain.  He took care to distance his proposal from the “severe punishments” and “inhumanity” of the law in some Islamic states.

One reaction to the Archbishop’s lecture came from Bishop of Rochester Michael Nazir-Ali, who was put under police protection last month after receiving death threats for suggesting some areas of Britain are ‘no-go areas’ for non-Mulsims.  Bishop Nazir-Ali said Sharia would be “in tension” with the rights of women, noting that Muslim women’s groups in Canada had blocked attempts to introduce Sharia law in marriage cases.

According to the Evening Standard, Bishop Nazir-Ali said that disputes on Shariah law "are not an argument for disturbing the integrity of a legal tradition which is rooted in the quite different moral and spiritual vision deriving from the Bible."

A spokesman for Prime Minister Gordon Brown also reacted to Archbishop Williams’ radio interview.

 "Our general position is that Sharia law cannot be used as a justification for committing breaches of English law, nor should the principles of Sharia law be included in a civil court for resolving contractual disputes.

"The Prime Minister believes British law should apply in this country, based on British values," the spokesman said.

Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the first major Labor Party leader to criticize multiculturalism, said the archbishop’s comments gave “succor to extremists,” calling the proposals “divisive and dangerous” ones that encouraged segregation.

Tory politician David Davies, who is also Anglican, said, "I am astounded. Dr. Williams is a nice enough man, very intellectual, but he has clearly lost the plot.

"He's one of the most influential Christian prelates in the world and he's supposed to be standing up for Christianity.

"What he's doing is abandoning his own religion.”
Mohammed Shafiq, director of the Ramadhan Foundation, responded positively to the archbishop of Canterbury. 

“Sharia law for civil matters is something which has been introduced in some western countries with much success; I believe that Muslims would take huge comfort from the Government allowing civil matters being resolved according to their faith," he said, according to the Evening Standard.

However, Shafiq did criticize Archbishop Williams on another recent incident. 

"We are however disappointed that the Archbishop of Canterbury was silent when Bishop Nazir-Ali was promoting intolerance and lying about no-go areas for Christians in the UK by Muslim extremists,” Shafiq said.  He said the archbishop should speak out against Bishop Nazir-Ali, or Muslims would believe the archbishop had sympathy towards the Bishop of Rochester’s opinions.

One clergyman identified as a member of the Anglican Church’s Governing Synod anonymously told The Times his own critical view.

"I am just so shocked, and cannot believe a man of his intelligence could be so gullible," he said.

"I can only assume that all the Muslims he meets are senior leaders of the community who tell him what a wonderful book the Koran is.”

The clergyman thought the Archbishop of Canterbury should resign because of the remarks.

Bishop Tom Butler of Southwark said the Archbishop of Canterbury had chosen a poor time and venue for his proposal. “The Archbishop has a way with language but this was a very heavy lecture,” he said, according to the Evening Standard.

Bishop Butler said the proposal would need a “great deal more thought and work” to become a good idea.

The archbishop is said to be shocked and hurt by the hostility his comments have provoked, and on his website he said he "certainly did not call for its introduction as some kind of parallel jurisdiction to the civil law".

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Archbishop to UN: Economics must help poor

, Feb 10, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the apostolic nuncio leading the Holy See’s permanent observer mission to the United Nations, addressed the U.N. Economic and Social Council on the importance of providing full employment and decent work to all people.

Archbishop Migliore stressed that a lack of employment and poor-quality employment offend human dignity.  He said that people, especially the young, “discover meaning and confidence in the future when they find long-term work with the opportunity for a deserved promotion.”

The archbishop referenced the global turmoil in world markets resulting from the collapse of the so-called real estate bubble as an example of the “ever-accelerating periodic cycles” alternating between job-creating economic growth and job-destroying economic recession.

“At this very moment, with bated breath the world wonders where the ongoing financial woes, provoked by the crisis in the real estate sector in some of the most developed economies, would lead us,” Archbishop Migliore said.

The archbishop said that the poor were often the people most affected by economic downturns.  Assisting the poor would not only be a matter of justice and charity, it would even be a “financially sound measure” that would stimulate national economies and international trade.

The stronger economies of the world, Archbishop Migliore worried, could worsen the economies of developing nations.  “The compelling needs of the poor have a priority claim on our conscience and on the choices financial leaders make,” he said.  “…A good society is measured by the extent to which those with responsibility attend to the needs of the weaker members, especially those most in need,” he continued.

Providing productive employment, poverty eradication, and social integration could be best accomplished, the archbishop said, by creating an “enabling” environment, promoting responsive social structures, and engaging in dialogue with those who are in need.

“Economic policies that help low-income working people live dignified, decent lives should be a priority of any good society worthy of the name,” Archbishop Migliore declared.

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Government silent in face of widespread support for landless Catholics

Hanoi, Vietnam, Feb 10, 2008 (CNA) - Following a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Joseph Ngô Quang Kiệt on Saturday, approximately 3,000 Catholics joined parishioners from Our Mother of Perpetual Help to peacefully protest the seizure of 14 acres of their land by the Vietnamese government. Ten thousand Catholics in Saigon expressed their solidarity by holding a vigil at the same time.

The mass demonstration began with the Redemptorists leading a procession to the property that they have been asking be restored for the last 10 years. The demonstrators chanted and sang for hours in front of dozens of crosses and icons of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, which are hanging on the fence that surrounds the confiscated property.

Support for the disenfranchised Catholics has spread at the grassroots level, with word of the protests reaching locals through bulletin board postings at parishes and news reports on the internet.

Throughout the day on Saturday, hundreds of vehicles were busy ferrying people back and forth from the dioceses of Bắc Ninh, Hải Phòng, Nam Định, Hà Tây, Vĩnh Yên to the protest site. Some supporters even traveled up to 250 miles to show their solidarity with the parishioners.

Foreseeing Saturday’s outpouring of support, security forces responsible for the land involved in the dispute were called to the site to setup barriers. Local sources informed CNA that the authorities hoped to prevent the Catholics maintaining vigil from gaining entrance to the grounds and camping out as they did at the former nunciature. The source added that the barriers were later removed out of fear that they might “add fuel to the fire”.

In addition to the barriers and normal security presence, large numbers of security police, in uniform and in plain-clothes, mingled in the demonstrators’ ranks, taking photos and filming with video cameras.

The state-controlled media has also been enlisted in the government’s efforts to try and discredit the Church, singling out Archbishop Joseph Ngô for blame.

According to the Redemptorists who run the parish, they originally purchased 15 acres of land in 1928. In 1954, the Communist government took control of northern Vietnam and jailed or deported most of Redemptorists. This left Fr. Joseph Vu Ngoc Bich to run the church by himself. Despite Fr. Vu’s persistent protests, local authorities gradually seized the parish’s land one section at a time. Consequently, the plot of land was reduced from 15 acres to its present-day size of little more than half an acre.

The government upped the ante at the beginning of 2008 by allowing construction on the Chiến Thắng sewing company to commence. The confiscated church property soon was surrounded by a fence and the presence of security officials.
Protestors have been gathering at the work site since January 7 to prevent any further construction by the state-run company.

In a message sent last January 7 to all the Redemptorists in the country, the provincial superior Fr. Joseph Cao Dinh Tri says the local government has illegally confiscated land belonging to their monastery at Thai Ha, Hanoi and is supporting a construction project there. The Redemptorists in Hanoi, Fr. Cao continues, "have responded by gathering people to pray at the construction site, asking the government to respect fairness and put justice into practice. I would earnestly implore all of you, the whole province of Vietnam, to be in solidarity with our brother Redemptorists in Hanoi, in order to pray for our common apostolate".

In that spirit, ten thousand Catholics gathered for a Mass at the Redemptorists’ church in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). The celebration was held at the same time as the Mass presided over by Archbishop Ngô in Hanoi to show solidarity with their brothers and sisters through special prayers and hymns.

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Lent is a time to look evil in the face, declares the Pope

Vatican City, Feb 10, 2008 (CNA) - The Holy Father greeted thousands of pilgrims gathered below his study in St. Peter’s Square today.  Before praying the Angelus, he addressed the theme of Lent, saying it is “a time to look evil in the face and combat its effects.”

“What does it mean to enter into Lent? It is the beginning of a particular time of penance to combat the evil present in the world, to look evil in the face and combat its effects,” Benedict XVI challenged.

The Pope told those gathered that Lent is a time to look the evil in our lives in the face, and to combat its causes, especially the ultimate cause, Satan.

“The problem of evil,” he said, “cannot be cast onto others, society, or God.” Rather, Pope Benedict said each person must recognize his own responsibility. It is urgent, he added, that we Christians respond to the invitation of Jesus.

Rather than seeing Lent as a time of misfortune or disgrace, the Holy Father said that by following Christ we can acquire the strength to fight evil together.

“The Life of the Cross is in fact the only way to achieve the victory of love over hatred, of sharing over egoism, of peace over violence. Viewed in this way, Lent is an occasion for gaining ascetic and spiritual depth in the grace of Christ,” the Pope encouraged.  

Pope Benedict closed his address by saying, “I invite all believers to enter this "spiritual battle" with hearts full of generosity towards those in need. In this way, we learn to make our lives a total gift to God and to our brothers and sisters. I wish all of you a fruitful preparation for the Paschal Feast.”

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Pope recalls the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes

Vatican City, Feb 10, 2008 (CNA) - Before reciting the Angelus today, Pope Benedict XVI spoke with the faithful about the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, which is tomorrow.

“This year the beginning of Lent coincides with the 150th anniversary of the apparition of Lourdes. Four years after the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception by Blessed Pius IX, Mary appeared for the first time on February 11, 1858 to St. Bernadette Soubirous in the grotto at Massabielle. After successive apparitions accompanied by extraordinary events, the Holy Virgin revealed to the young visionary in the local language, ‘I am the Immaculate Conception,’” the Pope recalled. 

He added that, “The message of the Madonna, which continued to spread from Lourdes, recalled the words of Jesus which he announced at the beginning of his public ministry: convert and believe in the Gospel, pray and do penance.”

Pope Benedict also reminded all present that the annual World Day of the Sick, celebrated each year on February 11, is directly linked to the Blessed Virgin’s promise to care for the many sick that come to Lourdes.

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