An uncommonly early Easter brought Alleluia resounding back at the end of March; but we returned to the foot of the Cross all too soon with the news from Lahore on Easter Day. Dozens were killed in the park bombings – including many children – and although some commentators have emphasised that non-Christian Pakistanis also perished in the attack, we can hardly regard its timing as a coincidence. As Charles Moore observed in the Spectator on 2 April, we might think that the targeting of Christians on the holiest day of the year would particularly horrify the press in countries of Christian heritage; but the Lahore outrage was soon eclipsed by the Brussels bombings, in which – as horrific as they were – fewer people died.
The reason for this is obvious: the way of life in Brussels is very much like that in London, or Paris, or Berlin, or Madrid; while Pakistan, or Yemen, or Syria, seem exotic and unfamiliar. But if the secular media are content to ignore our co-religionists on the other side of the world in order to focus on what they think are more newsworthy stories in so-called Christian Europe, then our duty to uphold in prayer and action the Christian population in areas under threat from ISIS and the Taliban grows daily.
On that front, we can hardly forget the plight of Fr Tom Uzhunnalil. He was kidnapped in Yemen when an old people’s home was attacked in early March: four Missionaries of Charity and twelve others were killed. It appears that the horrific rumour that Fr Tom was crucified on Good Friday was incorrect: we hope and pray for his safety and imminent release.
The long-awaited papal document to follow the Synods on the Family of 2014 and 2015 was released by the Vatican on 8 April. The title of the apostolic exhortation Amoris Lætitia translates as ‘The Joy of Love’, although some wags of a certain vintage came up with a looser and more mischievous rendering. The spellchecker of one commentator lacked a grasp of Latin and duly produced ‘Amorous Lætitia’, which led to a brief flurry of online memes based on the nymphomaniac Mrs Cropley, The Vicar of Dibley’s ‘Queen of Cordon-Bleurgh’. Reactions to the document were predictably varied: too much for some, not enough for others. The general consensus, now that the dust has settled, seems to be that the teachings of the Church remain unaltered. Our own Fr Julian Browning manfully made his way through entire text as soon as it was released, and his assessment of it leads this edition.
Meanwhile, the Welsh bench released a pastoral letter on same-sex marriage which, although it confirmed that there would be no imminent change to the Canons – after a consultative exercise it was clear that any such Bill brought to Governing Body would have failed – noted that the debate was not over. It pointed out that ‘since 2005, the Bench of Bishops has acknowledged that there are a range of views with respect to homosexuality, which have to be recognized as "honest and legitimate differences" within the diversity of opinion in the Church in Wales.’ We look forward intently to the recognition of the same ‘honest and legitimate differences’ on the matter of women’s ordination, and to the appointment of a Provincial Assistant Bishop to succeed the Rt Revd David Thomas, eight years after his retirement.
In the end, however, the news that the Archbishop of Canterbury had been fathered by the late Sir Anthony Montagu Browne and not by Gavin Welby eclipsed both the Pope and the Archbishop of Wales. The headline effectively boiled down to ‘Old Etonian’s father posher than originally thought’; but it was deemed newsworthy by all the major outlets, and the way in which the matter was handled by Lambeth Palace was exemplary. Particular tribute is due to the grace and fortitude shown by Archbishop Welby’s mother, the Lady Williams of Elvel.
Perhaps the revelation serves to bolster what many people have thought for a long time: that Archbishop Welby is as much of the Establishment as any of his predecessors. Eton; Cambridge; a stepfather in the House of Lords who captained Oxford at cricket; two Gartered great-uncles, one of whom was Rab Butler; and now a biological father who turns out to have been Winston Churchill’s private secretary. The Archbishop, however – all credit to him – used a high-octane press release as another opportunity to preach the Gospel:
My own experience is typical of many people. To find that one's father is other than imagined is not unusual... [But] I know that I find who I am in Jesus Christ, not in genetics, and my identity in him never changes.
We do not see eye-to-eye with His Grace on everything, of course; but in this statement we concur wholeheartedly.ND
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