Growing up as a young priest, a terrible sadness for us is the climate that has been engendered by the paedophile crisis. The terrible acts of a tiny minority of dysfunctional priests has smeared us all, to such an extent that it seems crazy to family and friends that we enter the priesthood in this day and age. Sure, we are not entering for an easy life or the prestige and power! Our formation, screening and training is excellent to prepare us for comprehensive safeguarding and a sensitivity to the vulnerable adults and children. However there has also been a real climate of fear about engaging with young people, and cases of false allegations and a litigious culture can act like a straight jacket on your pastoral impulses.
That is why Pope Francis global witness is so liberating for us! How comfortable he is in his own skin, as a friend who received a blessing from him recently said – he just radiates joy and love. And more importantly how children flock to him and embrace him. This is a great boost to our confidence and long may it continue. The world needs that powerful witness of Francis – like a Grandad to the world. And children who are being robbed of their childhood by pornography and hypersexualisation, they also need him. Below are two moving examples of this.
Firstly a clip that was replayed and replayed by the Brazilian TV channels when the Pope was over for World Youth Day. Nathan de Brito, the little boy who broke past barriers to run into Pope Francis’ arms. As They embraced on the Popemobile as de Brito confided to Pope Francis, “Your Holiness, I want to be a priest of Christ, a representative of Christ.” Pope Francis beamed at the small child in the Brazilian national soccer team jersey and told him, “I am going to pray for you, but I ask you to pray for me.” He wiped tears from his eyes as he embraced de Brito and told him, “As of today, your vocation is set.” After exiting the Popemobile, the video shows de Brito blowing the Pope a kiss before covering his face with his hands, completely overwhelmed by the incredible experience.
The second clip is of the Pope meeting migrants who had been shipwrecked in Lampedusa and those who helped them…and then there is the little boy in the yellow short….he will not leave the Pope’s side! he even escorts a little girl to see the Pope! A security guy tries to bribe him with candy but has no luck…he wants to stay with Francis! As the commentator on you tube says – I love this kid…and understand him! This happens in the first couple of minutes in the clip
AMDG It’s reading week here in Manchester and one of our students ‘Eric’ has been sweeping up leaves for us after the storm. Eric arrived in Manchester from Pakistan 4 years ago – he is a very hard worker. It was raining heavily this morning so I told him to come in out of the rain and have a cup of tea with me. Whilst brewing up Eric showed me some photos of on his phone that were shocking. They were of his house being burnt down 6 months ago in Pakistan. I have known him for months now and this is the first time he has talked about it. The riots started when one Muslim resident had accused another Christian resident of blasphemy against Muhammad after the two had engaged in a dispute. The police arrested the Christian accused of blasphemy on Friday, and the mob action took place the next day. Eric told me that they would remove and burn the blessed sacrament first before burning down the church.
This picture on the right is of the burning of all the church objects . He talked very calmly about it – the house was worth about £70,000 and was going to be Eric’s inheritance. According to the Pakistani government 178 houses, 18 shops, and 2 churches were damaged during the riots. Eric says his friends and family reckon the number of homes destroyed is at least 350, or about twice the size of the government estimate and that the entire operation was very well planned and deliberate, not a case of a peaceful demonstration getting out of hand. That the police told residents in the Colony the previous day (Friday) that they should leave the area. This clearly indicates that the government was aware of the planned mob action, and wanted to minimize the loss of life. The St. Joseph Colony is located on land near a number of industrial sites including steel and iron-making plants. It is well-known that these industries would like more land to expand their operations, and many residents believe that is what was behind the clearance.
Eric asked me to tell this story on my blog – this all happened 6 months ago – what I want to know is why the BBC is not interested in reporting this? Because it’s an uncomfortable truth for the Liberal Elite. John L Allen, the excellent American commentator, has an interesting take on this – he wrote – Stoked by historical images of the Crusades and the Inquisition, and even by current perceptions of the wealth and power of church leaders and institutions, it’s tough for Western observers to wrap their minds around the fact that in a growing number of global hotspots, Christians today are the defenseless oppressed, not the arrogant oppressors. His new book is coming out soon – already available on Kindle – and it is worth getting, it is called (left) The Global War on Christians.
Two lovely stories today from the adventure that is the Catholic Chaplaincy at Manchester. It has been widely reported about the great scandal of loneliness amongst the elderly in our country, ia great shame. It is alarming the growing intolerance of the old – often seen as a nuisance, slowing our consumerist society down. Coupled with this is the growing scandal of heating bills and the greed of the energy companies, to which the old are particularly vulnerable. An Old Lady came in this morning – who regularly attends mass. Very frail, hunched over but with a real spark in her eyes. I look forward to our weekly conversation. She told me with tears in her eyes that she was moving back to Newcastle – because she couldn’t afford to heat her flat in Manchester. According to her the council had ripped out the night storage heaters and updated the radiators. She has found a smaller flat in Newcastle which is more efficiently heated. And then stooping down she pulled out a huge jam jar full of 10ps and copper she had been collecting for years! She wanted me to take it for the church. The widows mite indeed.
Also we had the foodbank open this morning and an emaciated young man was referred to us. An essential part of the foodbank is that people are welcomed and sit down and treated to tea and homemade cakes (from the students). Whilst the food parcels are being prepared, they tell us a bit of their story and we find out more about the nature of their crisis. This helps us to ‘signpost’ them to other support services they might not be aware of. Talking to one of our students he said how he was struggling to cope with the aftermath of his fathers death. Evidently a pentecostal ‘pastor’ had told him that as he was gay he was to never go into a church. For some reason he had obeyed this idiot (millstones round necks come to mind) . The young man really wanted someone to pray with him for his father. So to his great relief and delight our student took him into the chapel and they prayed together. A case of spiritual wounds being harder to cure then the physical wounds of hunger.