Friday, May 30, 2008

The Leader of the Church

I've written another letter to the Tablet.

Dear Sir,

Your front cover reads "We discover the kind of leader people want for the Catholic Church in England and Wales". There is no vacancy. The leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales is Pope Benedict XVI.


Peter Weatherby

It annoys me that these London journalists seem to assume that the bishop of their diocese will also be the 'Leader of the Church in England and Wales'. Of course, he will be a prominent national figure. There is, I suppose, a good chance that he will be elected the president of the episcopal conference. It is also quite likely that in due course he will become Cardinal - though he may well have to wait some time for that to happen. But there is no certainty in either case, and even if the Archbishop of Westminster takes on both these offices this will not make him Leader of the English and Welsh Church. Oh no.

I am reminded of the words of Cardinal Newman to Mgr George Talbot, a rather snobbish English priest residing in Rome who had invited him there to preach: "However, Birmingham people have souls". Yes, and the people of England outside London have their own bishops too! The Archbishop of Westminster is no more leader of the Church in this land than Boris Johnson is Secretary General of the United Nations.

(Read Newman's entire letter - it is very short and makes an interesting, and dare I say it, ironic read).

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