Saturday, August 31, 2013

Pope Francis takes a selfie, solidifies Catholic Church's newly cool image when has the Pope been so cool? 

Since he became Pope Francis, actually. 

And he’s constantly painting a better image of himself and, by extension, the Catholic Church.

This week, he was caught taking selfies with Italian teens. 

(Sidenote: Maybe that’s why "selfie" was added to the Oxford Dictionaries Online this week?)

To be clear, this is historic. No other Pope has ever taken a selfie of any kind – ever.

As has been pointed out many times, Pope Francis is relatable. He’s like a family member, an uncle perhaps, who’s had years of experience travelling and living. So when he gives you advice, you treat it as gold.

He’s also more accepting than we’ve seen previous popes be. 

On gay priests, Pope Francis said: “If they accept the Lord and have good will, who am I to judge them?” 

A radical change from the previous Pope Benedict XVI who banned homosexuals from working in the Catholic Church.

He also made positive comments about women in the church, a traditionally touchy subject. 

Pope Francis said he wished women filled more roles and that he wants a deeper “theology of women” in the Catholic Church.

All of this is on top of the fact that he joined Twitter, and has, on his English account, close to three-million followers. 

He tweets everyday sort of things, like parts of prayers and instructions to ask for salvation: “Don’t be afraid to ask God for forgiveness. He never tires of forgiving us. God is pure mercy,” he tweeted on Aug. 25.

He’s also shown that he’s humble, not because he says he is but because his actions show he really is. 

He turned down the opportunity to cruise around town in vehicles like a BMW X5, a Mercedes and a custom-made Renault, opting instead for the more subtle Ford Focus.

Though he had the option to spend the summer with his feet up in Castel Gandolfo, the traditional Vatican residence with views overlooking Lake Albano, Pope Francis chose to continue living at a Vatican guesthouse where he had been since the election back in March.

And then there was that time when someone ordered a statue be built of him in front of his former cathedral in Buenos Aires, and he ordered them to stop. 

They listened.

The man’s got power, and he’s using it for good.

So it’s really no surprise that a group of teens wanted to grab a selfie with the man; he’s changing the face of the Catholic Church into something attainable, something relatable that has appeal to old and new generations alike. 

He’s figured out that in order to reach people, he might have to log on to Twitter because that’s how some of his target audience communicates. 

It was an intelligent, strategic move that’s only had positive results.

Pope Francis: bringing the Catholic Church into the 21st century. 

Who wouldn’t “like” that?

Archbishop Pietro Parolin is the new Vatican Secretary of State

Archbishop Pietro Parolin was today appointed Secretary of State by Pope Francis. He succeeds Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who will remain in office until 15 October.

In a statement released at noon, the new Secretary of State speaks of " unmerited trust" placed in him by Pope Francis, to whom he expresses "my willingness and complete availability to work with him and under his guidance for the greater glory of God, the good of the Holy Church, and the progress and peace of humanity, that humanity might find reasons to live and to hope. "

"I feel very strongly the grace of this call - he adds - which is yet another and the latest of God's surprises in my life. Above all, I feel the full weight of the responsibility placed upon me: this call entrusts to me a difficult and challenging mission, before which my powers are weak and my abilities poor. For this reason, I entrust myself to the merciful love of the Lord, from whom nothing and no one can ever separate me, and to the prayers of all. I thank all those who have shown and who, starting now, will show me understanding, as well as for any and all manner of help that anyone might desire to offer me in my new undertaking. "

A native of Veneto, Msgr. Parolin was born in Schiavon (Vicenza ) January 17, 1955 . His was an agricultural machinery salesman, his mother a teacher and he had a brother and a sister. His father died when he was ten years old.

He entered the seminary and was ordained on April 27, 1980 . Having graduated in Canon Law in 1986, he entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See . His first missions took him to Nigeria , where experienced first hand the difficulties of relations with Muslims , and later to Mexico.

He returned to the Secretary of State on 30 November 2002 on being appointed Under-Secretary for Relations with States. He remained in this role until August 17 , 2009, when he was appointed nuncio to Venezuela

A period that he recalls in his statement today. "My thoughts - he writes - go to my family and to all the persons who have been part of my life: in the parishes into which I was born and in which I served; in the dear Diocese of Vicenza; at Rome; in the countries in which I have worked - from Nigeria, to Mexico, and most recently in Venezuela, which I am sorry to leave. I think also of Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI, who ordained me bishop, I think of the Secretariat of State, which was my home for many years, of His Eminence, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, of the other Superiors, colleagues and collaborators and of the whole Roman Curia, as well as of all those who represent the Holy Father and the Holy See diplomatically around the world. I owe a great debt to all".

Those years also saw him undertake a number of missions to Vietnam (pictured) , in order to improve the situation of religious freedom in the country and to explore the possibility of creating diplomatic relations. This work resulted in the establishment of the Joint Working Group, which, laboriously, continues in its mission.

An open and welcoming man described as a good listener, in his statement Msgr. Parolin speaks of "trepidation", but also " confidence and peace of mind " with which he places himself  "in this new service to the Gospel, to the Church and to Pope Francis, but also with trust and serenity - disposed - as the Holy Father asked us at the beginning - to walk, to build and to profess".

"May our Lady, whom I like to invoke under her titles as Our Lady of Monte Berico, Guadalupe and Coromoto, give us, "The courage, to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Lord's Cross; to build the Church on the Lord's blood which was poured out on the Cross; and to profess the one glory: Christ crucified. And in this way, the Church will go forward."

" And , as they say in Venezuela : " ¡Que Dios les bendiga . "

Family at heart of fairer society (Opinion)

Lord SacksThe most respected religious leader in Britain for the last two decades has undoubtedly been Lord Sacks, Britain’s retiring Chief Rabbi.

As Chief Rabbi he proved himself to be the most astute and the most relevant religious leader; he is hugely respected by Jews, non-Jews, believers and nonbelievers alike. 

His statements have been sensible, challenging and compassionate. Last week he gave a controversial and widely quoted interview to Daniel Finkelstein of The Times newspaper. 

Lord Sacks was particularly articulate on the value of family life. 

As Chief Rabbi he has been a prolific writer having produced a book every year for 22 years. 

One of them, ‘The Politics of Hope’, is a blueprint for social reform. 
Lord Sacks believes that we must work towards a social covenant among people – which he describes as, “How to make people behave better to each other and to build meaningful relationships.” 

This he says is, “the greatest task of any society.” 

The basic of reforms of civil society are:
1) To construct an environment of strong families.
2) Create a strong environment of supportive communities.
3) Focus intensely on the education system.
4) Challenge those who succeed to share some of their blessings with those who have less. 

Central to all his arguments is the institution of marriage. 

“I think the Government (in Britain) has not done enough for marriage although I don’t take a party political stance. The State has an interest in marriage because the cost of family breakdown and non-marriage, is estimated at £9 billion a year.

“The State should certainly recognise marriage in the Tax system. It should certainly give more support to mothers who stay at home, or for childcare provision. 

“I don’t believe in getting involved in the details but the principle is pretty clear,” the Chief Rabbi said.

Another area of social reform is overcoming racism. 

Lord Sacks has said many times that “multiculturalism has had its day and it’s time to move on.” He recognises that there is a difference between multiculturalism and a multi-ethnic society. 

He describes his vision by comparing a country house with a hotel and a hotel with a home. 

In a country house, “every minority is welcome but is a guest.” 

In a hotel however, “Nobody is at home, it doesn’t belong to anyone – we’ve each got our own room and so as long as we don’t disturb the neighbours we can do whatever we like.” 

But a home “is something we all have to build together.”

Sacks considers multiculturalism an hotel. 

“The real danger in a multicultural society is that every ethnic group and religious group becomes a pressure group furthering their people’s interests instead of the national interest.” 

As with all other religions there has been a fall-off in the practice of the faith in the Jewish community too. Lord Sacks believes that the breakdown in faith is the result of a breakdown in institutions. 

“A very individualistic society doesn’t really have space for God,” he says. “It doesn’t really have space for a covental commitment to marriage and these things are interlinked. 
“So I think society has become deep down more secular. It’s not just on the surface – do you believe God exists… there is a deep down hollowing out.” 

Asked whether he was an optimist or a pessimist the Chief Rabbi quoted, “Another rabbinical story.” Somebody once asked a Rabbi whether he was an optimist or pessimist, and he gave the most extraordinary answer. 

“I am not an optimist … who believes this is the best of all possible worlds, and I am not a pessimist…. who says that this is the worst of all possible worlds. I believe this is the worst of all possible worlds in which there is still hope.”

Lord Sacks resigns the Office of Chief Rabbi in a few days’ time. His wisdom will be sorely missed.

‘If I had put too much thought into this, it wouldn't have happened’

Olliver Williams: “Like everyone else, I’ve experienced hard times. And you don’t have to look too hard to see that the most vulnerable in our society are being hit the hardest by the economic crisis.” Photograph: Joe O’ShaughnessyOn Monday, the seventh Twist Soup Kitchen will open in Ennis, Co Clare. 

The first opened on the docks in Galway 14 months ago – the idea of Oliver Williams (47), a Galway man who lives in Loughrea.

Williams turns up more than half an hour late for our interview, offering apologies. 

Even before he sits down, the reason for his lateness becomes obvious: his phone is beeping and ringing non-stop. It’s Williams’ own personal number that is listed as the contact for Twist Soup Kitchens, and already that morning, there have been several calls from members of the public, some seeking help and others offering it, by way of food donations.

“When I opened the first soup kitchen, it was thought up in a week, and opened in a week. If I had put too much thought into it, it would never have happened,” he says. 

That first kitchen has since closed, and a new one will open in the city’s Wood Quay in three weeks, after Williams secured a five-year lease in the premises of a former takeaway.

There are currently five other Twist centres in operation – in Athlone, Roscommon, Sligo, Tuam, and Loughrea. “In the existing premises, we’re averaging about 2,500 customers a week, accessing food.”

Their model varies, according to the type of premises they can find. Roscommon has a restaurant and charity shop; Sligo has both, but in different locations; Tuam is a charity shop that hands out food parcels on request. 

Galway will operate on a food take-away basis. 

Drogheda will open in September.


Williams left school at 15, and headed for London, seeking work as a panel beater. 

“There was no plan at all,” he admits. “I had no family there, and no savings.” 

About two months after arriving, he spent three nights in the Centrepoint Shelter, an experience that has stayed with him. “I was only there three days, but for some people, three days could become three years.”

After 10 years he returned to Galway and opened a garage. He also got a pilot’s licence. 

During the boom, he flew developers and auctioneers around the country to inspect sites and properties, for €600 an hour. “When the property boom collapsed, my helicopter business collapsed too.” The helicopter was sold off to Russia.

“Like everyone else, I’ve experienced hard times,” Williams says. “And you don’t have to look too hard to see that the most vulnerable in our society are being hit the hardest by the economic crisis.”

He didn’t consult with anyone from the charity sector prior to setting up the first ad-hoc kitchen on Galway’s docks. 

“There’s no great design in business to what I do,” he says simply. “But none of it would happen without volunteers, and the three or so key volunteers at each kitchen. Each centre has about 10 volunteers.” What happens when those people move on? “So far, the key people have stayed. And there is no shortage of people offering to volunteer.”

Williams reports that those using the Twist kitchens are mainly “the new poor. Self-employed people, people with mortgages, who are sending children hungry to school. Debt is the major problem for everyone, even if you’re a civil servant. And although they are licensed, the constant use of money-lenders is another one – they target vulnerable people.”

The centres are called Twist Soup Kitchens, something he now regrets. Williams admits that “if I had my time over again, I wouldn’t have called it a soup kitchen, because of the association with the Famine and stigma, but it is what it is now”. 

He hopes the name does not put anyone off seeking help.

Cash donations

“The pride has to be left on the bedside locker at some point. The ethos of our soup kitchens is that you can walk in and be provided with a meal, 10am to 4pm.” 

As the Galway centre is take-away only, due to the existing regulations at the premises, customers will be greeted and offered a hot drink, and “a few meals – lamb stew, beef stew, chicken casserole, something to that effect”.

The kitchens have to obey the “same health and safety standards as anywhere else that serves food”. 

The kitchens are run on cash donations, fundraising via selling pins and tokens, proceeds from the Twist charity shops, and from donations of food from a number of sources around the country.

Recently, they were given a refrigerated truck worth €30,000; one supplier donates bread to all the centres; another provides fruit and vegetables; yet another donates ham. 

The previous day, a farmer rang to offer a lamb to be butchered. One of today’s many calls was an offer of 200 partridges and 100 chickens.

“The response we have got from the public to date means that every large town in Ireland at the moment needs a soup kitchen,” Williams says.

“I’m doing the same thing as Brother Kevin Crowley does in Dublin at the Capuchin Day Centre, but on a different scale and in a different way. The day we open a new kitchen in a town is the day we know whether it’s needed or not. So far, it’s needed. I’d love to open one and nobody to come into it.”

Twist Soup Kitchens are currently in the process of being registered as a charity so that they will be tax exempt. 

They are also in discussions with the Big Issue magazine with a view to amalgamation of resources in some way. 

“We need help, and they need help, and we can help each other.”

The next council elections are in 2014, and Williams says he is “considering running as an independent”. He hasn’t made his mind up yet, but it’s a strong possibility.

At the end of the interview, he switches his phone on again. It immediately starts beeping. 

In an hour, there have been 14 missed calls, all of them soup-kitchen related. 

“That’s fairly quiet,” he says. “Yesterday afternoon there were 67 calls.”

A death in a Dublin bin truck

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used to be easy enough to find Henryk Piotrowski. 

Even in the rough and tumble world of homelessness his days were carefully measured out in visits to agencies and drop-in centres across inner-city Dublin. 

Breakfasts tended to be at the Mendicity Institute, on a quiet street just off the south quays.

Later on he would head in the direction of Trust, a nearby drop-in centre, for a shower or a change of clothes. 

Lunch was often across the Liffey at the Capuchin Day Centre on Bow Street, which provides free dinners. 

 Much of the rest of the day was spent in a blur of drinking with other Poles who had fallen on hard times. 

“We saw him change a lot over the past two years,” says Alice Leahy, a founder of Trust, who helped to wash his feet a short time before he disappeared. 

“Like so many others he was often in an awful state. The light had gone out of his eyes . . . We dressed his feet, which were in a dreadful state, and he had a cup of tea and a shower. He went on his way and said thanks.”

Kris Jameczek, a formerly homeless Pole who is now an outreach worker, remembers hugging him not long before he disappeared. “We were just talking about life, about jobs, about cheering each other up. His home life was complicated,” he says. “I gave him a big hug. He was just a very friendly guy.”

In better timesPiotrowski had come to Ireland in search of a new life. There was plenty of work on the building sites. But when the bottom fell out of the economy the work vanished. 

His English was poor, and he had little or no money. On top of everything his family life was in disarray. His relationship with his wife had broken up, and he had lost contact with his daughters.

Support agencies say they made numerous attempts to persuade him to return. But going home, he said, simply wasn’t an option. The shame was too great. Drink was an escape from the misery.

Introspective and quiet

“He was almost permanently drunk . . . There were times when he detoxed. When he was sober he was miserable, introspective and quiet,” says Charles Richards, manager of the Mendicity Institute, one of Dublin’s oldest charities. “I remember saying to him, ‘Henryk, you’re going to die if you keep up this kind of heavy drinking.’ And he said, ‘Charles, I am already dead.’ ” 

Last month he lost his bed in a homeless hostel – Frederick Hall – that had been set aside for homeless migrants. The facility had provided a stable bed for the previous year or more, although there were times when he didn’t use it at all. He, along with more than a dozen other migrants, was left to use an emergency phone number for accommodation to organise a bed on a nightly basis. 

Then he disappeared. He was no longer to be found in any of the agencies or drop-in centres where he had become a familiar face. Just over a week ago came shocking news. He had been found crushed to death in a commercial waste pick-up truck. He had been sleeping in an industrial-sized bin in the south inner city.

The circumstances of Piotrowski’s death were shocking for a country that prides itself on its compassion for the less well-off at home and abroad. It has also raised urgent questions about the kind of support available for Ireland’s migrant homeless population and whether enough is being done to support them at a time of cutbacks to vital social safety nets. 

“Homeless services are especially poor for foreign nationals,” says Fr Peter McVerry, the homelessness campaigner. “The Irish can get a bed for six months in a hostel, and it brings them at least some stability. But the non-Irish can only get a hostel bed for one night at a time.”

Neither Poland nor Ireland ever predicted the scale of the rush to work here in 2004, when borders were opened to accession-state members. Hundreds of thousands came to chase the Celtic Tiger dream. And for most it delivered on its promise of well-paid work.

But a small number who came without money, contacts or basic English had a different experience. For them no job was waiting. Later, when so many temporary jobs on building sites ended abruptly, there was no accommodation or support system for them. 

Once on the street or in homeless shelters they found themselves in another trap: accession-country members have no right to public funds, which meant they could not claim welfare benefits or get long-term beds in publicly funded hostels.

Today it’s estimated that anywhere between 15 and 20 per cent of Dublin’s homeless population on the street are migrants from eastern Europe.

Welfare entitlements

Tackling the issue of migrants is complex. Any relaxation of rules over entitlement to welfare benefits for foreign nationals could make Ireland a “haven” for destitute foreigners, says one policymaker who declines to be named. 

The State’s policy towards migrant homeless has been, wherever possible, to repatriate them. 

In the first five months of this year 153 foreign nationals were flown back to their countries of origin after seeking help from the Reception and Integration Agency to go home on destitution grounds. 

That compares with 97 in the same period last year.

Although some have voiced concern that the policy is simply dumping the problem elsewhere, staff and volunteers at the Mendicity Institute see it as a progressive solution, if done properly.

The idea of repatriation is nothing new. When the Mendicity Institute was established, in 1818, there were an estimated 6,000 beggars on the streets. As part of a policy of “transmission” in the early 19th century, about 3,000 were given funds to go abroad or to parts of the country where they had been guaranteed a job. Another 3,000 were given work and shelter. 

Over the past 18 months, Charles Richards says, the institute has been working closely with a Polish outreach team – Barka – to help repatriate those who wish to return home. 

“It is all done on a voluntary basis,” he says. “If people are interested in engaging, it’s up to them. No one is pressurised. They can leave any time. We’ve helped to move 100 people out of homelessness and connected them back home or into training or work.” 

It’s also cost effective, he says. The programme has cost about €200,000 in its entirety, yet a single hostel bed can cost anything up to €20,000 a year, not to mind support services.

Kris Jameczek, the former homeless man turned outreach worker, is one of those who chose to return home to Poland. He had been working on building sites in London before he lost his job and found himself sleeping in a park. In all he spent six years on the street. 

“There was so much expectation at home,” he says. “I felt like a failure. I could not go back to my family. But there was also freedom on the streets. I drank every day. There was nothing else to do. The longer I was on the street the more it felt like normality.” 

It took years of gentle persuasion from the Barka team in London before he decided to go home. When he got back he joined a group-living scheme, received addiction counselling and found basic work.

“I’m trying to help others,” says Jameczek, who is now 58. “It can still be difficult. I hope my relations with my family improve. I’m an optimist. That’s why I’m doing this.” 

Alice Leahy, the cofounder of Trust, says repatriation may be the answer for some. But for many the system’s reliance on paperwork and invasive questioning is a turn-off.

“In all the years we’ve been operating, the system hasn’t progressed all that much. It still lacks basic compassion and understanding of how the real world operates,” she says. “We’ve seen people who’ve been repatriated and then arrived back here months later . . . There are often unrealistic expectations, or a rush to push people into accommodation, without the right kind of support.”

Leahy says the fact that migrants are able to access only a single night’s accommodation is just adding to the sense of isolation among the most marginalised of our homeless population. 

“It’s not good enough to have to ring up every night for a bed,” she says. “There are just too many rules and regulations. It’s no surprise then that people won’t link in with services.”

Supporting migrants

There is no obvious best way of supporting migrants. Even those who provide homeless services are divided. There’s little doubt that Henryk Piotrowski posed complex challenges for homeless-support agencies. No shortage of help was available to him over the course of his life. 

Groups such as the Mendicity Institute take grave issue with the notion that he or other migrants are being let down by the system. 

“We did everything we could to support him: food, medical care, counselling, accommodation options. But he was a chaotic alcoholic, and his family life was in disarray,” Richards says. “He was estranged from family. We contacted his brothers, but he wouldn’t engage with them. We located his daughters on Facebook. He could see they were healthy and surrounded by friends – but Henryk felt there was no way back to his family.” 

Richards believes that Piotrowski was on the road to oblivion and that nothing was going to stop it. 

“Once, we had a passport, flight, he was off drink for two days, there were new clothes, he was all ready to go. He never turned up . . . I don’t think anything would have saved him.”

Comment – The C of E is tiptoeing towards gay marriage

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W8p+Fk7DLxRai00xeS5u2mV3GuExUSOLBldfdI0GHCm7kf3kx0Lhs3rbx+SsNRqLSzkjmyJuRp8CdyE0nmjyGONnZtPMXufM7lJj4sW2+T+vgJqc9JURNTWtpwQ0h0x0J5NB3APXxUM6s0JKUrOH3aua4nzUFXUswFre1R5skssrkyjHFY46J7DHxyXFy09QU4qcPkZqO+3qN/aFTqNzmHoVcMGxrYOQ9aCuyOjls6/mq1xnPd0TejXO95t9FpdRQQza+q78w+o5rL+Nacsq3R75WR2I5gtv9U/D7ifP7SJA0BSaNrbfzH/AAgc3UHlZVkYN0W6OilYzhKQK2+i6LNiMJ/KyR39Nvqqm8KzejmQtxGmtzLmnyLD+iCXQUezcqqma8WcLqnYrw+6Mks1b05hXdcW3U8o2PjNxMZ4gjzQvBGo19oVKvdq3riXhts8bstg+x19nNYRHSvMpiDHOfmc3K0Em4Ntk3Bq0wczUqaGkvIozCrpL6L6xsPaExDTN2WY5xzte1r+Cp74S3QggjQ3T00xFNHBGak7pVq44TlSbBqlJdkn0XGMtfo5b/r4f4v7VuJWEcAyWr6c/tEf0lbwpsnuHQ6ClFR7IqAMKgRiEC44pD5RcoHahR1uhR+2ISKLLDfZml4LhoDqrhQ08RPqsy5Wkdw31LtL5v2QqpTkvIaNyVdKKlGVovYjK1zrHKLE6X83EX2VWDd6Jc+qdhaGjiJiOXWTLcZXgC8ZcbEjqEf7Kx8bTYXIadGOba/Qk6+xLyR9k4gZnCIgDQ2BDNiefdcjUpzsDGl5sGgXAIbppqAOSolGNNJCIylabYlSQs7osACSB3SSQHFpJN9L2PkjxMZZhy6ue1pGV9rGTKbHbbxS1GW2ztJtntptnLwDoRcXceXW/O6UZbRveIa4WtcgOa6+p52O6zjH5QXKXwxuyBps4tGrmt52sZgz32KT7NhvcNs0zFwa1wLWRueA7MTZ18oHmfBKz1IY4AXIzk5fwh7Xm/K+jgTva6UMzQC4XtGZMxsT613SNtbvNudhzA6LkobVGtz07G1mta7utuI3Oy5Ta4bcDNfX/NknW0kWwb6wedWuFsrbixIToBgYbl2QxvsBqOzy62Nr6A6apDFJtDvmAcQCCNCAHEX35eV0Moxq2vs5Slen9Gb4zSAG4UdECFJ4rIcp6qOppORCgjtFsuyToa1zeaiOPaQyZKlo1aAyTwAP3bz4alvuUrGwcktGbaEXB0IOoIO4I5ooT4uwZx5qjOYqiwsQD0NtQucOdtD0116qV4owhsDmujPcfezObSNwDzbr7FGU8wtYq5O1aIJRcXTChiTeE6bC647O5JIAaBcucTZrQOZJIHtUhxJwxU0bi2aM2AH3jQXRnQG2e2hF7G9tQtbMIAhW70YsBxCG/JshH7waQPmVVMuineA3kV9LY/8AUI9ha5DLpmx7PQKBGsuSRgVVOj4fbTVlTUtbftAHDnlP4gOlzqrak53hrSTyBK7+DipHFTKSXEjw6eBVZ4qw6AxukkbldbRzeZ5XCiKTi9meQyAi73kW2tmNvhZRWP46aggNuGDl1PVSQw5fLv8A2Uzy4/HRBkapRqB6FgXqkAnIEiNwnLwn2AcOzVbyyHLcanMbD5LLo6hXhiXJV0zv/kHxuF6CWYUHotnY6N8k0Yyua6zQTsb2uf0WngbeSnybkNj0cUVGQWQBBSio5CKuOMlfVEGyEVo5p0WNKbz0g5JaKWmOcGxMNmYQC7VaJE5rIcpcACwszF34SLZiN81uXXmsvpKgxEkAJ1Nirn+sbeCZHI4aSEzx8nsuWO4+1peWkuzvv6xsBkY3Vu1+6U6wnE4x3i7fLtIQBYWN2X19yz2SRp5oGNvsUazyuzPFGqNFZjEYLGh7QR2We+zmsc11wfzC1vEHys5grWWGV7TZ2jswtkMl3ZgfxWJHjv5ZVXShgOqqtRxBJG7uOPlfRNjOcvgBxhH5PQXbs1N23DpC05gR3nuc0232ckmVrCHBr7gx5O9lGrfUdcDXdwPmFi1Dx04aSNv5KeoeLYH+BQOeSLuglHHJVZpdRVNcXhjm5SyUWJsRI8Aacsp1J6G/XRDFsQYG3vtmIFwSSWlvLYWJ9tuio7+IIraXKiavGXOPggeaclVB+KKd2SNQ7MfBE+zhI0lQCpBjFP0O7EBGRslBKRulQEYMWWEkU3jWbNJEB+FhPtLv+FBsffz+akuK5L1LgNmhrfaBc/NRgYr8SqCPPyu5s0/0Q8PuL/tsrLMZpACPXlNwZfFrRcA9STyWqzsu0gGxsdbA6nmWnQ+RXnDD8bqoeyMc8gERJY0uJYC71hkOhadrfJXLEvSnJJT5GQ9nO4Frnh92N09eMesHdAbgeKXmhJhY5JFExam7OeWPOyTK9wzsGVrje5LW8tbi3K1lcvRJgcU73zSF2eB7CxoOhuD3ndVRDfUm5JNyTuSdSSeZWgehirDaieI/jja4ebHa/wBwRyviDHs1xcuXJQZya4pTukikY02c5pAPQkJ0uXHHnHiDhueicGzNFjo1zTcOt8QVHNWo+m4dym/fd/YVlhaqIO1sVJUxQpRoTF7ilIz4lEYOXq0+juRzZX2uBl3VdwSAPqYWHUGRoPlfZb63AYAbtYGnS9tL26qbO24uKHYaT5M7BXlzCSSdTupAhBHEGiwFghS4RcYpMOTt2FK5CUCIEKUCMQgKw4ydz0V0pVEZjUg5pU4++yLwSC86Lg8ptPO1o1IVRkxiQ8/ikDVuduUSwv5MeZFkFRndcJeWvyDdQtDLYJvidQbIuGxbmKYni5doFDE3XLk9Khbdgqe4QgzzZTsRZQIVr9H8d5vaPkhyOos2PZPYjg5i1tokqelBWl1mGCSLbkqPLSmJxafYoOTqi2KGraC2yWjkc1PIxoge8c0DbG0gjavqjx1ITWXKkgAsORU8Uw6Zr3ve24Licw1FidPJMgVe6yndJBKAL/duPuF1QWBW4cnNEWbHxehUOQlyIPJc8beZTmKOedCV6C4U4ep6aJroow172ML3nV7iWg6uPLXZef8ALovS9APuo/3Gf2hJmHEWsgRrLrIAgoQ2Q2XLjjMvTY37qnPSQ/2OWVELXfTRH/poT0lH9rgsjcnY+hc+xvJyR4UD+SNCmAE1wlDmracD/uA+5ehiFiPowo89ew8mNc76fqtwIU0/cOj0EIQI9kBCE0IUCPZBZcaJ2XI9kGVYceUyFxVkxXAS0mw5lQE0Bbuq4zUuhLTQlZC1cgCIwkaR+6SrjokY5bIk8t1lbOEVyBcEZgdXP0cj732qlhXr0ZQl0ugvqk5vYw4e5G3UQ7oTPEMFZJuFJ0dMQ3VLGFS8G1sdyplHq+G3D1CfJQ9Tg8o/CtYbEEnNSAjZc8OtMNZTJ6Hh+WV1rZR1U2/hAMFySfarvS0oaUlXtuseNKNs7yNyIKiomMYW2GoI94IWDPZlLm9CR7iR9F6I7MBYXxTTdnV1DRsJHEeR1+q308ttA5lqyNaj2QNCMrGToBjLkDqQPeQF6Uw5vdaP2QPgF5yoWXkjHWSP+8L0fSHZIyP8kNh0yQjjR3QroylmoqQIzNOk3xWT5xScuyxpGpmbemZv+iYekrPqFi7gtp9Mp/0Q/wDKz5rF3LcT0Dk7EXpSEIknJKwBOYs0z0NUl3zydA1vwv8AVarkVC9D0GWme78zz8LD6LQ2qW7bKK0hsUUp2+G6O2ELeLZljEoCn74AQo6ZuUoZJo1UzkCIXopel8guJS8Qwtrr7bql4zgQ1XLlNim09DJxTKjV4YWlMXsIQLl6uOTa2RyCORSuXJqMACFcuWmFw4Z4Bmq2seHNbG7W9xfL4DqtZ4L4QbRXAOYk7lcuUrk26GqKouzdkcBcuRGIOAuXLlhojKo6ucuXJOTobHsj3SXWOceMtXS+OU/0rlyT6b9wLP7SBCO7Yf5ouXL0CZDrCBeeH/yx/wB4Xo6njXLkmaXIOPQ+YEq1cuRmAlJOahXLjkZp6a2WpY/GZvycfosZeuXLYKkDN2JS8ktBsuXJjBRuvosjAoo/Ek/Eq8tauXKXHux8gCuaUC5NFhwm89MHLlyxqzbGk9DYaKOebGy5cpc0UuhsHZ//2Q==The Archbishop of Canterbury ran up the white flag on gay marriage this week and almost no one noticed. 

The Most Rev Justin Welby told the Evangelical Alliance – an umbrella group for born-again Christians – that “we should be really, really repentant” for having supported homophobia in the past. 

That call for repentance made the headlines – but it wasn’t the real story.

Damian Thompson writes in The Daily Telegraph – Archbishop Welby also said that he’d voted against gay marriage in the Lords and would do so again: he doesn’t believe that marriage should be redefined by Parliament. That statement also featured prominently in news reports – but, again, it wasn’t the story.

Here’s what really mattered. In the course of his speech, the Archbishop conceded that young members of the Church of England – including many evangelicals – are in favour of gay marriage. It’s a generational thing, inside and outside the Church. As he put it, “the vast majority of people under 35 think not only that what we are saying is incomprehensible but also think that we are plain wrong and wicked and equate it to racism”.

He’s right: they do think that, and for that reason the C of E is, as he said, “deeply and profoundly divided over the way forward on it” – “it” being gay marriage, not just theological attitudes to homosexuality.

But the divisions won’t last. Archbishop Welby – a clearer thinker than his predecessor, though that’s not saying much – recognises that England’s established Church will come round to gay marriage, even if he doesn’t change his own mind. For the time being, older members of the General Synod will block same-sex ceremonies. 

But in 10 or 20 years’ time, even born-again churchgoers will be tolerant of homosexuality and therefore unlikely to oppose gay weddings. Dissidents will have long ago defected to Catholicism, other Protestant denominations or breakaway Anglican sects.

In a sense this is good news for the Primate of All England: gay marriage will not ultimately tear apart the Church of England. The bad news, however, is that he’s going to have to give up this “worldwide Anglican Communion” fantasy.

It doesn’t matter how gently the English Church tiptoes towards gay marriage: Anglican Churches in Africa and South America will not allow two men or two women to exchange vows in their churches – not now, and not in 2033.

By that point they will be no more in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury than with the Grand Mufti of Egypt – and the label “Anglican” will have fallen out of use. Already it encompasses fundamentalist bigots in Kampala and spaced-out pantheists in San Francisco; the last Lambeth Conference, in which bishops faced each other in mock-Zulu tribal meetings, was the stuff of high comedy. 

Even in England, “Anglicanism” is past its sell-by date: as the contorted Synod debates over women bishops and gay priests reveal, it’s simply an attempt to sanctify pragmatism.

So are we approaching the last rites of the Church of England? Not at all. There is a demand for a Church that follows public opinion rather than leading it; whose magisterium is shaped by good manners rather than canon lawyers. Plus, the cathedrals are lovely.

There are worse things than a religion whose guiding principle is niceness. 

Fifty years ago open declarations of homosexuality were in bad taste; now it’s not just bigoted to deny “marriage equality” to gay people, it’s jolly rude. 

Yes, there’ll be “unpleasantness” over the next decade, but eventually doctrine will catch up with English manners. 

And, in the meantime, there are flowers to be arranged.