You are here:   Archbishop Vincent Nichols > ‘This Society is Not Secular’

DJ: Assuming that it does go ahead, what are your hopes from the Pope's visit? 

VN: When we look back to the visit of John Paul II of 1982 it can be summed up like this. Here was the Pope as the first pastor of the Catholic Church. He came and celebrated the sacraments of the Church and in doing so he confirmed the strength of the Catholic community. This is quite different. Benedict represents the project of faith and reason working together, and a witness to the contribution that faith and reason together make towards European society. I hope and pray that a voice of faith will speak for the reasonableness of faith and its ability to raise our expectation of ourselves and each other through the power of the grace of God. He will do it in a way that resonates in this English context. He has a great love of Newman and will be very sensitive to the Englishness as much as the Europeanness of our situation. So far I have sensed nothing but enthusiasm and welcome for this visit from the government and the Archbishop of Canterbury. It will convince many people of the goodness of faith and the contribution it can make to the project of faith and reason in the 21st century. 

DJ: Will the visit be welcomed by other faith communities in the UK? We know Archbishop Rowan is on-side, but what about the non-Christian faiths here? I'm thinking about Pope's controversial Regensburg lecture and the consequences of that. Will there be some Muslims who will object? 

VN: To give him due credit, the Pope has worked quite carefully and assiduously, for example in his visit to Turkey, to find a point of dialogue with Muslims. He also, after the Regensburg lecture, established quite a detailed and high-level academic discussion with 300 Muslim scholars from around the world. The point of the lecture was to say how much can we, two great world religions, get together to discuss the reasonableness of God? That was the central point that he was making. He has worked extremely assiduously on that. His visit to the Holy Land was extremely well judged. I don't think that there were any seriously critical comments from the state of Israel. The other night, I went to the Hindu temple at Neasden, with 4,500 Hindus, along with the heads of the other faiths in Brent, and civic leaders. What was so evident there was the depth of the respect for a holy person: somebody who stands with a commitment in their own life to the religious quest. I'm quite sure that that would be extended with enormous warmth towards the Pope. 

This idea that the divisions in society lie between the faiths is not true: it's a false dichotomy. It's as old hat now as the idea that Muslims will be offended if you celebrate Christmas — they're not offended in the least! What they want to see is strong religious faith — with a space for their own, with all the difficulties that that can bring. But the divisions are not there. The divisions are more between those who understand the importance of religious faith and those who don't-those who are aggressively secularist. But my impression is that the aggressive secularist voice, even if it gets a lot of attention, does not speak for most people in this country, who understand the importance of religious faith and know the shortcomings of the practice of any faith, particularly of shortcomings in the practice of the Catholic faith, but nevertheless are still able to say that this is something that is important that we can't afford to lose.

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William C.
January 13th, 2010
1:01 AM
John, I am not a Catholic and consider myself something of an unorthodox Christian. I am also an American and not an Englishman. That said remarks like yours seem to enforce the Archbishop's final words here. It is those like you, hardcore "secularists" or whatever you consider yourself, who are more dividing than the majority of Muslim's in your nation. The Catholic church has indeed make mistakes and isn't infallible, yet there are still many good men and women working in it. Meanwhile the Church of England has evidently fared poorly over the past years. If Christianity and it's values are to vanish in your country, if your society is left with nothing but atheistic filth and widely disconnected groups of immigrants, can we really consider you an ally? From this moral crisis to what penny-pinching has done to your armed forces, I can't help but imagine men like Churchill would be deeply worried about England.

Catholic parent of four
December 29th, 2009
6:12 PM
The way that this man backs the government on compulsory political sex education and sells down the river children and parents is diabolical. He knows that what he is saying is not the truth. Catholic schools, like all other schools, will have to follow the content laid down by government diktat. Primary schools will be forced to teach the innocent about "Civil partnerships" and secondary schools will have to give pupils the contact information about abortion clinics and contraceptive agencies, without even the knowledge of their parents, let alone their consent. I publicly challenge Archbishop Nichols to say that this is not so.

December 22nd, 2009
1:12 AM
There is nothing here at all that suggests that this man, or the church that he represents is alive with the Truth. I would also say that the recent PT Barnum circus event re the bones of the mediocre anorexic Saint Theresa point to how moribund the church really is. Such a circus begs the question as to what century we are living in--the 19th and previous centuries. Or did the 20th Century actually happen. Instead of adoring decaying bones where are the now present-time living Saints who are thus Living Spirit-Breathing demonstrations and proof of The Divine Reality. You would think that with a world-wide membership of one billion there would be numerous, even many such Spirit-Breathing Saints! But then again the church never-ever liked its Radiant Saints. Indeed they were often jailed, persecuted, and even executed. Plus do you think that Jesus would be welcome, or even recognized at the good Bishops cathedral. I think not. It is also interesting that the good Bishop never even mentioned the words Consciousness or that Consciousness is the primal fact of our existence-being. Or that Consciousness transcends physical existence. By not doing so the good Bishop was just repeating the usual humanist kluk about loving one another and that we here all together to do that, but with a bit of self-serving consoling religious mumbo-jumbo added for good measure.

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