Friday, 4 May 2012

The Archdiocese of Birmingham and Tales from the Raj

EF Pastor Emeritus posted, a few days ago, on the news that Archbishop Longley of Birmingham had invested a leading member of the Sikh community as a Knight of the Pontifical Order of Pope St Gregory the Great.

The Sikh in question had done a great deal over the years in cementing inter-faith relations.
It would be churlish to pour cold water over efforts to bring two faiths closer together but it is a source of puzzlement to me as to why a religion that does not recognise the divinity of Jesus Christ should become a focal point for a Catholic community.
I don't see any advances with the Jehovah's Witnesses or the Mormons or the Buddhists for that matter. So why the Sikhs?

Now it happens that I am a fan of the followers of Sikhism; I like the way that they have integrated into Great Britain, the fact that they are industrious and  exemplars of good citizenship.

They are great fighters and were part of the allied troops in the two world wars and others besides.

They are also, in my mind, very similar to Liberal Catholics inasmuch that they have a rigid set of doctrinal beliefs that they then totally ignore.
Alcohol is banned in the Sikh faith but all the Sikhs that I  know, drink like  fish.
This is not a criticism of Sikhs or their faith, just an observation.

But I do know that, when we, as Catholics, are invited to a Sikh Temple for one of their services such as a wedding, male guests are expected to cover their heads. Often this is done with a handkerchief so that it appears as if the Monty Python cast are in attendance.

Fine, still no problem although, I do not think that I would readily attend a Gurdwara.

My concern is that, from the photographs I have seen, these eminent Sikhs wore their turbans in St Chad's Catholic Cathedral during their investiture. In addition, some 120 members of their community were in attendance and my guess would be that the majority of males wore turbans.

So, no big deal you might say. But I think that it is a big deal and for us to ignore it sends out a message that we are less than certain in our beliefs and, worst of all, that we do not really believe that the Son of God is physically present in the tabernacle.

There is also the issue of reciprocity - what's sauce for the goose and all of that.

Birmingham's PR machine produced a neat little report that talked in terms of the investiture being a "historical" and a "ground-breaking" event.

That may well be but I still struggle to understand the whole affair.
Inter-religious dialogue is a pretty meaningless affair, except when a political or social conflict exists; the Holy Father has demonstrated superbly how to conduct such relationships - teach, encourage and welcome into the fold, that is his way and it should be Birmingham's way.

Archbishop Longley described it thus in his sermon:

 “The faith communities in this city are often among the first to recognise emerging social needs within our local communities. We want to develop effective partnerships among ourselves and with other agencies wherever appropriate to help meet these needs. May today’s celebration encourage us to continue along the pathway of this commitment not only for the good of our own faith communities but for the common good.”
I would really like to know what he means by "effective partnerships" and how they comply with Christ's command to go and teach all nations.
And it would be good if our leaders spoke in terms of "spiritual needs" rather than social ones - we have structures to cope with those.


  1. Well said. "Historical" and "groundbreaking" are not meaningful categories in the way that "truth" and "justice" are. Papal friend, yes; Papal knight, no.

    -- Mack in Texas

  2. Concise and to the point, thanks Mack.