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Party poopers WHILE CHAMPAGNE corks are popping today at “Pope Benedict parties” to celebrate last year’s successful papal visit to Britain, an event with an opposing theme is also set to take place. In central London, a march and rally “for

a secular Europe” has been scheduled to coincide with the first anniversary of Benedict XVI’s UK visit. Its organisers, which include the British Humanist Society and the National Secular Society, are calling for an end to the “economic privilege and political influence” of the Vatican and the removal of state- funded faith schools. They are hoping the thousands who turned out for the “Protest the Pope” rally during the papal visit will attend and they say they want the march to become an annual event. Surprisingly, one of those supporting the

rally is Fr Bernard Lynch, a member of the Society of African Missions, who released a video promoting the event via YouTube. Fr Lynch was also present and spoke at the “Protest the Pope” march. But this activity appears to have got him into trouble with his order. His provincial, Fr Fachtna O’Driscoll, told us that he does not support Fr Lynch’s participation in the event and that the priest’s relationship with his order is currently “under review”. Terry Sanderson of the National Secular Society said that as a result of being under investigation, Fr Lynch would not speak at the rally. However, the marchers have received some episcopal good wishes: the Archbishop of Southwark, Peter Smith, was one of a number of religious leaders asked to join the march by organisers. His secretary replied that while Archbishop Smith was otherwise engaged he “hopes that you have an enjoyable and fruitful march”. Talk about blessing your enemies.

Massage to the faithful THE LAYING ON of hands has taken on a different meaning for visitors to a Catholic pastoral centre in north London that has begun offering reflexology and massage treat- ments to local people to help them cope with stress. St Joseph’s Pastoral Centre in Hendon

primarily supports those with learning diffi- culties, and has offered reflexology as one of a range of services for a number of years. But because of cuts in public funding, the venue has decided to make these treatments available for all in order to raise funds. Centre director John Coleby said it was

important to recognise that raising revenue was not the only reason for expanding its usage. He said the move also fits in with the centre’s main objective of becoming a model of “inclusion”.

Our Lady of Discord GASTON LACROIX called the new statue a work of art. He praised it as “a guide for a society that no longer has one”. He said so many Catholic statues adorned nearby moun- tain trails that one more overlooking Lake Geneva would fit perfectly into the landscape. But try as he might, the mayor of the

“We are Catholics and we do not discrim-

inate,” he said, adding that reflexology and massage resources “should be seen in the context of the centre’s aims as a whole”, and that he hopes other activities including clubs for arts and crafts and for drama will also be made available for the whole community.

The full monty LAST FRIDAY was a significant one in the life of Nigel Baker, the new British Ambassador to the Holy See. Not only did he present his credentials to Pope Benedict XVI at Castel Gandolfo; it was also his forty-fifth birthday. Ever the diplomat, after the ceremony he told Vatican Radio: “I don’t think one could celebrate a birthday in a better way than presenting credentials to His Holiness the Pope.” As the Holy See is one of only 10 missions across the globe that requires full diplomatic court uniform, Mr Baker was dressed in high-collar jacket, cocked hat with ostrich plumes and a sword. We reported earlier this year that he pur- chased his new kit from Savile Row tailors Davies & Son and had hoped to borrow the sword of his predecessor Francis Campbell. Unfortunately the sword was already packed and on its way to Mr Campbell’s next posting to Pakistan.

It is unusual but not uncommon for a

Holy See ambassador to present their cre- dentials to the Pope at the papal summer residence, and Mr Baker is the twentieth ambassador to do so under this pontificate. However, he is the first British Ambassador to the Holy See to start tweeting. A Twitter account, “UK in Holy See”, has been established and the inaugural tweet took place last week. Mr Baker is clearly a keen user of social media: he has also started blogging and in his first post says he hopes this “will provide a window on what this embassy, and this ambassador, does and why we do it”.

French village of Publier, just outside the spa town of Evian, could not convince his critics that spending €23,700 of municipal funds to place a statue of the Virgin Mary on public land was not a violation of France’s cherished laïcité, or separation of Church and State. The life-size statue was dedicated last month on the Feast of the Assumption. Called Our Lady of Léman (the French name for Lake Geneva), its inscription asked the Virgin to “watch over your children”. On 30 August, Lacroix managed to make the muni - cipal council approve the expense. Once that happened, local Socialists, free-

thinkers and other defenders of laïcité reacted with threats of legal action if the mayor did not remove the statue and reimburse the vil- lage. Lacroix quickly got pledges to meet the costs and move Our Lady of Léman to a private plot close by. Undaunted, Lacroix admitted that he had “flirted a little bit” with the laïcité law but meant well. “Maybe that was a bit naive, but that’s the way it was.”

Yes, Minister

AS PROMOTIONS go, it was bigger than most. When a support teacher at a Catholic secondary school in north London was unex- pectedly asked to become his country’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister it was an offer he just couldn’t refuse. Mohamed Ibrahim, a Muslim, had worked

at Newman Catholic College in Harlesden for two years when he was appointed to the posts in Somalia, which is plagued by drought, famine and political instability. He emailed head teacher Richard Kolka during the summer holidays to say he would not be returning to the school – explaining that he had already taken part in several international meetings as Foreign Minister, including a Food and Agriculture Organisation conference in Rome. Mr Kolka told us he found news of Mr

Ibrahim’s promotion hard to believe at first and confessed to doing a Google search of Mr Ibrahim’s name to check if it was plausible. For his part, Mr Ibrahim said he would

always have Newman Catholic College in his heart and would not forget his “wonderful colleagues” at the school. Mr Kolka said his former staff member would try to return to the school

for a visit at the end of the

month and that it was “an absolute joy” to hear of his appointment.

17 September 2011 | THE TABLET | 17

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