The former Church of England’s bishop of Rochester has spoken of the overriding importance of the Catholic Church’s global voice for the future of Christianity in a world threatened by Islamic militancy and secularism.
In an Oct. 2nd speech to the Anglican Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham – a body in communion with the Catholic Church that preserves its Anglican liturgical and spiritual patrimony – Bishop Nazir-Ali said the Catholic Church potentially had “a great future and a huge opportunity” in the emerging world order and that it now had allies in upholding orthodoxy, even in unexpected quarters.
But he said that how effective it would be depended on how Rome viewed its own position and on its willingness to address its approach to certain issues. He identified these as culture and language and discipline.
Bishop Nazir-Ali, who has both a Christian and a Muslim family background and is now President of the Oxford Centre for Training, Research, Advocacy and Dialogue, was speaking on the subject: “A Global Christianity in the Making” to the Ordinariate clergy’s plenary session at St Patrick’s Catholic Church in Soho Square, London.
He said that, with the growth of Islamic militancy and the persecution of Christians worldwide, many people were now looking to Rome as the voice that could stem the tide. He said these people included many Evangelicals whom he knew who never, in the past, would have thought about Rome. “So the Catholic Church has both a great opportunity and also a great responsibility”.
On the topic of the rise in Islamic militancy, he said that two things, in particular, had to be denied: one was the idea that extremism was explained solely by economic and social factors (this he said, overlooked the nature of the militants’ agenda) and the second was the claim, expressed by some Church leaders, that “a truly Islamic state would not persecute Christians”. Bishop Nazir-Ali said he could see no empirical evidence to support this view, which romanticised Islamic militancy.
Bishop Nazir Ali also called, during his talk, for the deployment of an international force to secure the future of Christians, Yazidis and others within Iraq. He said a more generous asylum policy was only one step that needed to be taken. “It would be a great tragedy if the entire Christian community were to be exiled in the way that the militants want”, he said.
On the issue of the Ordinariates, set up by Benedict XVI in 2010, he said that he had watched its establishment and development with great and close interest. “Allowing Anglican patrimony to flourish should not just be taken as an exception, but it could be a charter for the future,” he said.
He stressed the Catholic Church must not capitulate to culture nor must it destroy any culture. “Instead it must take heed of Pope Benedict’s point: that the role of the Church is to enable culture to find its true centre,” he said.
Bishop Nazir-Ali went on to speak of the importance of discipline and noted that the lack of it had “caused havoc” within the Anglican Communion.