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FROM BRITAIN AND IRELAND NEWS Pope links riots to ‘moral relativism’


Robert Mickens In Rome


POPE BENEDICT XVIhas expressed his con- viction that the root cause of the riots in English cities this summer was “moral rela- tivism” and the loss of basic values. In an address to welcome formally Britain’s


new Ambassador to the Holy See, Nigel Baker, the Pope said the only way to avoid such tragic manifestations in the future was by the “active fostering of essential values of a healthy soci- ety” such as the defence of life and marriage, education in morality and fraternal regard for the poor and the weak. “When policies do not presume or promote


objective values, the resulting moral relativism, instead of leading to a society that is free, fair, just and compassionate, tends instead to pro- duce frustration, despair, selfishness and a disregard for the life and liberty of others,” the Pope said in his message as the envoy pre- sented his credentials at Castel Gandolfo. In an interview with Vatican Radio, Mr


Baker, a 45-year-old Anglican, was asked what he saw as the “reasons” behind the riots. “I think it would be very dangerous to launch into a sort of ‘this was the problem’,” he said. “A lot of commentators have been very ready to do so, but I think it requires a certain amount of study and analysis.” The ambas- sador said the issue was “very complex”, but agreed with the Pope that “the question of values and adherence to society in a positive way” was “clearly one of the key elements”. The Pope added that policymakers were right to “uphold excellence in education” and stressed the need for the “sound moral edu- cation of the young” and defence of life and


the family. His remarks came as a Unicef report concluded that British parents were too focused on buying clothes and toys for their children rather then spending quality time with them. Mr Baker was also asked how he saw the Catholic Church’s criticism of civil partnerships for gay couples, which are legal in Britain. “There are some areas where there are dif- ferent points of view,” he said. In his address to the Pope, Mr Baker focused on what he called the “three broad themes” that have solidified the relationship between Britain and the Holy See – “tackling existential threats such as climate change and arms pro- liferation”; “promoting dialogue and working together to support freedom of religion, free- dom of expression and freedom from violence”; “fighting poverty and disease”. Pope Benedict acknowledged these in his message as “areas where the Holy See and the United Kingdom have already agreed and worked together”. He also praised David Cameron’s


■The Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, has said that last year’s papal visit to Britain has inspired him to meet Pope Benedict XVI in Rome in December, writes Abigail Frymann. Lord Sacks was addressing a seminar this week organised by the Council for Christians and Jews with the Archbishop


commitment to “ring-fence Great Britain’s aid budget”, while inviting the British Government to increase “development cooperation” with Church agencies in Rome and in Britain.


But the core of the papal text focused on


the need for society to recover values and he also called for “social opportunity and eco- nomic mobility” and a fair distribution of wealth. Meanwhile, in a speech at Birmingham


University, Archbishop Vincent Nichols said that the Pope’s visit to Britain had led to a shift in public opinion about faith as an enrich- ment to society. The bishops of England and Wales are due to gather tomorrow at Westminster Cathedral for a Mass of thanksgiving for the papal visit. After the Mass, which will all be in the new translation, they will issue a statement outlining the mission of the Catholic Church in England and Wales. (For the Pope and Archbishop’s speeches, visit www.thetablet.co.uk.)


of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, to assess the legacy of last year’s visit. “Here was a man who had been demonised by certain circles – still is – who turns out to be a quiet, gentle, deeply thoughtful human being in whom many of faith or no faith can see an aura of holiness,” Lord Sacks told


Scottish bishops condemn gay-marriage plan


THE SCOTTISH Catholic hierarchy has attacked the Scottish Government over its support for same-sex marriage, writes Sam Adams. The Bishop of Paisley, Philip Tartaglia, said that by supporting the proposal, which is cur- rently out for public consultation across Scotland, the Scottish National Party (SNP) administration was guilty of “cultural van- dalism” and did not deserve the trust of the nation, including its 800,000 Catholics. Cardinal Keith O’Brien of St Andrews and Edinburgh, the Archbishop of Glasgow, Mario Conti, the bishops of Motherwell, Argyll and the Isles and the vicar general of Dunkeld have all spoken out against the move. Bishop Tartaglia said the Government, which is also


34 | THE TABLET | 17 September 2011


consulting on a plan to allow civil partnerships to be held in religious places of worship, had “failed in its duty to society”, while the Bishop of Motherwell, Joseph Devine, said a “signif- icant number” of Catholic voters were likely to abandon the party over the issue. Bishop Devine accused the Government of “conning the Catholic community” by asking for its views on gay marriage because it had already “half made up its mind” on the issue. In a letter to the Scottish Herald, Archbishop Conti warned that allowing gay weddings would render marriage “meaningless in respect of one of its essential attributes, its capacity to create a natural family”. He added that the level of public support for same-sex marriage in Scotland – which


stood at around 60 per cent in one poll – would be seen by some as indicating a liberal society “but to others a foolish one” and that the move “hints also at a hubristic mentality on the part of those in power”. The Bishop of Argyll and the Isles, Joseph


Toal, warned the SNP to “watch the steps it takes” with Catholic voters. “They have gained support among Catholics in recent times, but I think such support can very easily be with- drawn. Faithful Christians will be very disappointed about their apparent rush to change the traditional understanding of mar- riage.” The new Bishop of Aberdeen, Hugh Gilbert, thought that permitting gay marriage could prove the “breaking point” for some of the SNP’s Catholic supporters.


the gathering at Broadcasting House, in central London. He said his forthcoming visit to the Vatican came in response to the Pope telling him last year at the interfaith gathering at St Mary’s College, Twickenham: “I cherish the relationship with the Jewish people and I want to deepen it.”


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