Saturday, 31 March 2012

Landmark Anniversary for Relations Between UK and Holy See

Her Majesty's Ambassador Speaks About Vatican's Diplomatic Importance
By Ann Schneible
ROME, MARCH 30, 2012 ( The Venerable English College, in association with the British Embassy to the Holy See, today hosted a Colloquium to celebrate 30 years of diplomatic relations between the United Kingdom and the Holy See, as well as the 30th anniversary of Blessed John Paul II's pastoral visit to the United Kingdom in 1982. The Colloquium, titled "Britain and the Holy See: A Celebration of 1982 and the Wider Relationship," focused on the significance of the 1982 papal visit, the ecumenical relationship between the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church, and finally the historical diplomatic relationship between Britain and the Holy See.

Her Majesty's Ambassador to the Holy See, His Excellency Nigel Baker, spoke with ZENIT about the significance of the 1982 papal visit, the relationship between the Holy See and Britain, and the importance of the Holy See in international diplomacy.

ZENIT: We heard about Blessed John Paul II's 1982 visit to the United Kingdom. How does this visit continue to influence diplomatic relations between England and the Holy See?

Baker: I was struck listening to the Cardinals, Archbishop, and bishop today when they were talking about the impact of the 1982 visit. And at points they were comparing 1982 with now, and how things have moved on since then. Two things particularly. One, the qualitative difference now from then and preceding 1982, and the ecumenical relationship: how things have developed extraordinarily between the Anglican Church and the Catholic Church, the Catholic Church and the other denominations, and indeed the way the Catholic Church, Catholics in Britain, are perceived in the country, as to before that first papal visit. It seems to me a crucial area of difference, and something which the visit of 1982 helped to make happen. The other was the difference in the way the British government perceives the relationship with the Holy See. The fact of the 1982 visit was, of course, important. But it's important to know that was a pastoral visit, unlike the visit of Pope Benedict the XVI, which was a State visit. The impact of the visit of 1982 helped the British government of the time understand that here was this global organization which the government itself should engage with and take seriously, both for its global role and also for its role within the United Kingdom itself. I think two things that 1982 visit really helped to develop in terms of Britain and the Holy See.

ZENIT: What contribution does the Holy See make to international diplomacy?

Baker: You may have seen that there was a significant visit by British government delegation in February: seven British government ministers came. Why do seven British government ministers come to the Holy See? We don't normally have delegations of seven ministers going to countries. The answer is that there is an extremely wide agenda of action and activity between Britain and the Holy See which really shows the importance of the Holy See in the international diplomatic affairs. I'll touch on just some of the main issues they were talking about which will answer your question: climate change (the engagement of the global Catholic Church in the protection of creation); disarmament, the constant calls for peace (I would particularly focus on small-arms trade, which of course is a great killer of people, across particularly the developing world); development, and looking ahead to Rio; and the role of the global Church in education, in healthcare, not in working on the ground but in the policies behind that sort of activity; the middle East, and the important role of Christianity in the Middle East, and the engagement in the Holy See in what is now an absolute focus of the British government. I could mention many other issues, but I think that, in itself, just shows why the British government is constantly engaging with the Holy See on a very wide waterfront, because, of the Holy See’s importance, and the role of the global Catholic Church in issues which are of fundamental importance in the world today.

ZENIT: What is the role of the Holy See in fortifying religious freedom in England?

Baker: It's a very interesting issue. It's something the British government ministers had the chance to talk about during their visit in February. I think I would be cautious about using the term "religious freedom" when, say, talking about a country like the United Kingdom. Everybody is, of course, absolutely free to worship, to engage in worship, to practice, to express their views. The balancing act that, say, the British government has to manage, and indeed the British courts have to manage, is that they are representative of a society in which there are many Christians (probably a majority Christian society of different denominations), Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, people of no religion, who come at a loss of these ethical… in very different directions. So there is a very difficult balance to be struck. Now, there are some big issues where a response, say, to a particular decision by a court, is striking against freedom of conscience, and the individual looking at his or her religious beliefs to be able to act according to those beliefs. In broad terms, government is extremely sympathetic to arguments of that sort. But, of course, the complexities of the issues when one applies aspects of the law of the land, other issues of rights – be they human rights, be the equality issues – in which the question of individual conscience is also mixed up. We talk to the Holy See, we engage with the Holy See a lot. We talk internationally, we talk over at the United Nations about some of these issues as well when applied more globally. There are incredibly complex ones. For me, the importance is, that there's a constant dialogue, constant understanding and respect for the positions of others, including members of the Catholic faith. So that decisions impacting, particularly when it comes to the law, are not taken hastily, are taken with all the evidence available, and that there is a clear hearing for all views before a decision is reached.

ZENIT: Why was the Venerable English College chosen as the venue for this Colloquium?

Baker: There's a strong partnership between the embassy and the College, as many of my pre-Reformation predecessors were actually officers of the College, and lived in the College during there residence in Rome as Ambassadors. It's also a year of celebration for the College; it's their 650thanniversary as a foundation and, it's important to note, as a Royal foundation. And I'm very keen to highlight that historical link. There are other British colleges here in Rome as well: there's the Scottish College; the Pontifical Irish College (which looks to the Republic of Ireland but also to Northern Ireland, some of its seminarians are from Northern Ireland); the Beta College, for more mature seminarians, many of whom are British. And I think that relationship between the colleges, who are providing an extraordinary service to the United Kingdom. Training young men to engage in pastoral ministry in the United Kingdom is something which the embassy should celebrate as well. So there's that historical relationship, there’s of course the national relationship, and also the celebratory relationship, all of which we wanted to mark by coming together for this conference.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

St Nicholas Owen (March 22) was tortured horribly but did not give up any compromising information

Coughton Court, where St Nicholas built a priest hole
Coughton Court, where St Nicholas built a priest hole

The carpenter who kept hundreds of fugitives alive

Nicholas Owen (c 1550-1606) was one of four sons of Walter Owen, a carpenter who lived in Oxford. Inheriting his father’s skill, he came to specialise in the construction of concealed priest-holes in country houses. Many Catholics on the run owed their lives to him.
“I verily think,” noted Fr John Gerard, “that no one can be said to have done more good of all those who laboured in the English vineyard.
“He was the immediate occasion of saving many hundreds of persons, both ecclesiastical and secular, which had been lost and forfeited many times over if the priests had been taken in their houses.”
Owen is first encountered in 1581 in connection with the martyrdom of Edmund Campion, whose servant he may have been. At all events, he maintained Campion’s innocence of treason with such force that he himself was imprisoned.
He must have been tough to survive the appalling conditions, which killed one of his fellow prisoners. Yet he was a small man who walked with a pronounced limp after a pack horse fell on top of him and broke his leg.
From 1586 Owen was in the service of Fr Henry Garnet, the Jesuit Provincial, with whom he travelled extensively, staying at Catholic houses where he constructed supremely well-disguised hiding places.
A few authentic examples survive: for example, at Sawston Hall near Cambridge, Huddington Court in Worcestershire and Coughton Court in Warwickshire.
To maintain security Owen would never discuss this work. While constructing a priest-hole he would ostentatiously engage in repairs in some other part of the house during the day, and work on his hiding places at night.
In 1594 Owen accompanied another priest, Fr Gerard, to London, to help him with the purchase of a house. While in town, however, they were betrayed by a servant of the Wiseman family, for whom Owen had constructed a refuge at Broadoaks in Essex.
The authorities, aware that Owen was a repository of many secrets of recusant life, tortured him most horribly, but without extracting any compromising information. After his release he helped Fr Gerard escape from the Tower of London by means of a rope strung across the moat.
The Gunpowder Plot of 1605 again made Owen a wanted man. With three other Jesuits he took refuge at Hindlip Hall in Worcestershire. When the house was raided, 100 men were employed to search for them, but failed to find the priest-hole.
After eight days the starving Owen slipped out of the hiding place unobserved and tried to pass himself off to his captors as a priest in order to save Fr Garnet.
The ruse failed, and Owen was mercilessly tortured in the Tower, until on March 22 1606 his entrails burst out when he was on the rack, and he expired.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Forgerygate: Ignoring Arpaio's report is a scandal in itself

by: Jeffrey T. Kuhner
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Is President Obama’s birth certificate a forgery? Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Ariz., believes it is. He recently held a press conference in Phoenix to discuss the findings of a new 10-page report. Mr. Arpaio’s investigators have come to a stunning conclusion: The long-form birth certificate Mr. Obama released last year is a “computer-generated forgery.”

With the exception of The Washington Times, however, no major U.S. media outlet reported this bombshell story. The liberal press corps is desperately trying to suppress any discussion of Forgerygate — potentially one of the biggest scandals in American history. The media class is betraying its fundamental mission to pursue the truth.

“Based on all of the evidence presented and investigated, I cannot in good faith report to you that these documents are authentic,” Sheriff Arpaio said. “My investigators believe that the long-form birth certificate was manufactured electronically and that it did not originate in paper format as claimed by the White House.”

The Washington Times story, written by Stephen Dinan, points out that Mr. Arpaio has called for Congress to investigate the matter. Think about this: A high-profile sheriff orders a team of former law enforcement officials to examine whether the president is truly a natural born citizen and that he has the constitutional and legal right to occupy the White House. Their official report is that Mr. Obama’s documents are shoddy and he likely engaged in deliberate fraud. And yet, most of the American press corps doesn’t believe this is an important news story? The liberal media has become rotten to the core.

Ironically, the foreign press reported widely on the story. For example, Pravda — that’s right, the former official organ of the Soviet Communist Party — did an extensive analysis of Mr. Arpaio’s findings. The article by Dianna Cotter asks the obvious question: What are U.S. journalists afraid of?

The answer is that the issue strikes at the heart of Mr. Obama’s administration: If his presidency is illegal, then all of his accomplishments — the stimulus, Obamacare, the contraceptive mandate, the government takeover of the auto sector and appointments to the Supreme Court — are illegitimate as well. The scandal would trigger a constitutional crisis.

Following Mr. Obama’s surprise news conference last year, when he unveiled the long-form certificate, the media insisted that the controversy was settled once and for all. The "birthers" supposedly had been silenced. Mr. Arpaio’s report, however, changes that. The issue has been resuscitated — except in the eyes of the mainstream media.

A prominent sheriff says he has damning evidence that Mr. Obama probably lied to the public. The international media believes it’s a big deal; many Americans agree. They want to get to the bottom of it. Yet, the liberal hacks at the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN and MSNBC can do nothing more than yawn.

Contrast this with their treatment of President George W. Bush. Throughout the Bush years it was open season: routine comparisons to Adolf Hitler, charges of being a war criminal, calls for impeachment, trumped-up scandals like the Valerie Plame affair, investigations into the partying habits of his teenage daughters, stories about Mr. Bush’s drinking as a younger man, his National Guard service and mediocre college grades — journalists left no stone unturned, no questions unanswered, no topic was beyond the pale.

Not with Mr. Obama. In fact, the opposite is true: Almost everything pertinent is not to be touched. He is the least-vetted president in modern memory. During the 2008 campaign, the liberal media deliberately propped up Mr. Obama. They suppressed vital information about his radical past and deep ties to virulent revolutionary leftists — the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn, Derrick Bell, Saul Alinsky and Edward Said. For all of their differences, they share one value in common: hatred for traditional America.

To this day, Mr. Obama’s college transcripts, undergraduate thesis and health records remain sealed. We know little about his years in Indonesia as a young boy; his overseas trips to countries like Pakistan in the 1980s; his relationship with his mother and Muslim stepfather; and his time spent as a “community organizer” in Chicago. In short, the president’s past is clouded in mystery. This is not conspiracy-mongering, but objective fact. Americans have a right to know who their commander-in-chief really is. Instead, the media wants to bury any debate or inquiry into Mr. Obama’s background.

Whether you believe Mr. Obama’s long-form birth certificate is a forgery or not, Mr. Arpaio should be applauded. He has done our nation a huge service. He is asking the press corps to look into an issue of the highest importance: Has the president committed a monstrous hoax and fraud upon the American people? In particular, the sheriff’s team has identified a supposed “person of interest” who they believe played a pivotal role in Forgerygate. The media must follow up on the story. If it is false, then Mr. Arpaio will be rightly humiliated and publicly discredited. But if — and I stress if — it is true, then the press will have unearthed a scandal that will shake this country to its very foundations. Either way, it’s time the media did their job and stop acting like Mr. Obama’s poodles.  

Jeffrey T. Kuhner  is a columnist at The Washington Times and president of the Edmund Burke Institute.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Father Felix Varela

A Cuban priest and patriot has been recognized as fulfilling the conditions for receiving the title "venerable" and there's a possibility Benedict XVI will bestow the honor while he visit Cuba from March 26 to 29.

Father Felix Varela was recognized for heroic virtue earlier this month by a commission of cardinals and bishops of the Congregation for Saints' Causes.

The general postulator of Father Varela’s cause, La Salle Brother Rodolfo Meoli, was clearly pleased with the positive conclusion of the canonical process.

“With the approval of the Commission of Cardinals and Bishops, and after the Pope’s consent, the Congregation for Saints' Causes will issue the Decree super virtutibus, on the heroic virtues of the Servant of God Felix Varela, which will promote him to Venerable.”

“The Commission of Cardinals and Bishops pronounced itself after the decision of the Theological Commission, expressed on December 13 of last year, which recognized in Father Varela the practice of virtues to a heroic degree,” continued Brother Meoli.

And he explained that “the same day in which the Pope authorizes Cardinal Amato to sign the Decree, the news will be made known to the public by L’Osservatore Romano, probably together with other causes brought to the Holy Father.” This could happen in concomitance with Benedict XVI’s pastoral visit to Cuba.

Felix Varela

Father Varela is considered one of the fathers of the Cuban nation. Born in Havana in 1788, he was ordained a priest at age 23. At 24 he was appointed professor of philosophy, physics and ethics in the capital’s seminary. Here he established the country’s first laboratory of physics and chemistry.

In the history of Cuban culture Father Varela occupies a pre-eminent place for his contribution to the development of the national culture and for his patriotism and his virtue. He was a professor, educator and model of piety for his disciples. In 1821, at 33, he was sent as a representative of Cuba to the Courts of Madrid.

His three initiatives in Spain were: a government for the overseas provinces, independence and the abolition of slavery.

In Madrid he organized a group with representatives of some other overseas provinces, to improve the defense of common rights.

His proposals were not approved and, with the re-establishment of monarchical absolutism, he left Spain in 1823. Unable to return to Cuba, he went, in self-imposed exile, to New York, where he continued his battle.

He built churches and schools, and evangelized the poor and immigrants, helping in their integration. He died in the United States in February of 1853. His body rests in the Great Hall of the University of Havana.

In 1981 the Cuban government created the Felix Varela Order, the country’s highest decoration.