Britain Still Shows Signs of Faith, Insists Cardinal

Westminster Archbishop Detects a «Secular Wobble»

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LONDON, DEC. 19, 2005 ( Wherever disaster has struck this year, faith-filled testimonies have quickly followed, the archbishop of Westminster argued in an article in a Sunday newspaper.

Writing in The Observer, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor said there was a «secular wobble» in contemporary Britain, producing a «queasy feeling that goes hand in hand with the loss of confidence in confident rationalism.»

He said the rejection of religion seemed increasingly dogmatic while the search for the transcendent, evident in the new popularity of monasteries and spiritual sanctuaries, appears gentle and humble.

«There is much that confirms, but also much that contradicts, secular Britain,» the cardinal wrote; «what to make, for example, of the latest statistics for the Catholic Church in England and Wales that show a decline in numbers marrying in church yet an increase in the number of baptisms and priestly vocations?»

The Westminster archbishop cited a theme that the Holy Father touched on early in his pontificate.

«What is new is that the ‘dictatorship of relativism’ — as Pope Benedict XVI describes our cultural hegemony — faces new cadres of determined opponents,» Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor wrote.


«Pope John Paul II taught the master lesson in what it means to suffer with patience and dignity; in response, millions gathered in vigil around his bedside,» the cardinal wrote. «The same lesson has been offered in other, smaller classrooms.

«One of my most moving moments this year was giving Communion to Abigail Witchalls as she lay, paralysed but smiling, in her hospital bed, the victim of appalling brutality who nurtured a child in her womb. … She became a channel of God’s peace, and now — with the birth of her son and leaving hospital for home — she and her family glimpse the beginnings of a new dawn.»

The cardinal cited last summer’s terrorist attacks in London, and the aftermath.

«Terror is a provocation: in its contempt for human beings as political collateral, it tempts us to respond in the same vein,» he wrote. «Yet what do we remember, in retrospect, about the response of Londoners to the bombs on the underground? Who forgets the efficiency and care shown by the emergency services, the way that Londoners put their arms around each other, and nursed each other? By their refusal to be corroded by violence, in their countless small acts of compassion, the British showed they believe in God’s design for humanity.

«Witnesses stepped forward with words to proclaim it. The July 7 attacks in London blasphemed God with violence in the cause of a religion unrecognizable to religious communities; yet the mother of one of the victims, Marie Fatayi-Williams, was given a prophet’s tongue, pardoning her son’s killers and pleading with tears for reconciliation in the name of the God she knew. What but faith summons from a grief-stricken mother the words: ‘Anger begets hatred, begets more violence, so let us forgive’?»

«God knows, the world is worth it,» he wrote, «the dignity of the divinely-created, divinely-nurtured human being is a wondrous thing, and when it shines through — as it has so often this year — it leaves everything changed. I say it not with satisfaction, but in gratitude: this year the light of the manger has burned very brightly indeed. No wonder that, in its rays, unbelief trembles.»

Anglican echo

On Sunday, the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury and his predecessor struck a similar note about the signs of religious sensibility in Britain.

Archbishop Rowan Williams and Lord George Carey insisted that political correctness or fear of offending other religions should not be allowed to cloud the fact that Christianity lies at the heart of British culture, the Telegraph newspaper reported.

The two Anglicans attacked the «silly bureaucrats» who insisted on banning Christian words and symbols in a misguided attempt to placate Muslims and others.

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