Comment Opinion & Features

Letters: Do not forget the killing of priests 

Nigerian priests bear the coffins of fellow clergy reportedly killed by Fulani herdsmen

The synod we really need 

SIR – With all the attention on the Amazon synod and the suggestion that married men might be ordained to address the problem of a shortage of priests in the region, no one seems to have given much thought to the ongoing murder of priests in other regions, notably Africa, Asia and the Middle East (Rest of the World news analysis, November 1).  

While influential Western clerics virtue-signal about the environment and worship wooden idols in Rome, scarcely a week goes by without a report of courageous, holy men in far-flung parishes being killed simply for being priests.  

As St Paul put it, they are being “slaughtered all day long” while those safely away from the front line discuss priestly celibacy as a problem to be got around.  

Is it not time the Church convened a synod to discuss the shortage of priests as a consequence of this ongoing slaughter? Or some kind of official acknowledgement of their selfless sacrifice at the very least. 

Ann Farmer 
Woodford Green, Essex 

An Institute to take over churches 

SIR – Peter Sheppard’s article (Feature, November 1) about the fate of hundreds of medieval churches in Norfolk made interesting reading. He almost dismisses the possibility that any of them could become Catholic churches on the grounds that the Catholic Church lacks the imagination and the ambition to take over historic or prestigious  buildings. 

However, this is not entirely true. In recent years, the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest has taken over three large churches in England which are Listed Buildings. They have also purchased a former Presbyterian church in Belfast. Although none of these are medieval, in each case the Institute has taken on heavy maintenance responsibilities, as well as the task of building up the congregation. 

With several Englishmen in their seminary, it is not entirely impossible that in a few years time the Institute may have the resources to take over one or two medieval Norfolk churches. 

Paul Waddington 
Hemingbrough, Yorkshire 


SIR – I enjoyed Peter Sheppard’s article about the plight of rural churches in Norfolk, which did indeed highlight a serious dilemma for all the churches.

On one point, however, he misunderstood the nature and origins of Church of England parish churches. They were not, as he seems to believe, built by Catholics but now used by the Church of England, but rather built often through the benefactions of rich patrons or groups of patrons for the use of the local community. Hence even today every parishioner retains rights within the Church of England as their Church, which is not the case in any other Church. So in that sense the Church of England is the true heir to the medieval Church. There was no Catholic to Protestant clean break in England and the Church of England remains in continuity with the medieval church, as does the Roman Catholic Church. In England the churches which emerged from the Reformation era – the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church among them – all drew on the pre-Reformation heritage of the one Church from which they are all derived but all were changed and no Church remained exactly the same as before. 

Having said which, Peter Sheppard rightly highlights a massive challenge for all Churches which seek to maintain worship and ministry in thinly populated rural areas.

Rev Tim Evans 

Open secret 

SIR – The problem of the name “Secret Archives” is more of a problem of English translation. The Italian Archivo Segretto does not imply secrecy but specificity. They are far from secret as critics claim. In my research both from Rome and from the US, I have encountered no difficulty in accessing any information online or on location.  

English speakers, probably owing to cultural melodrama, seem fixated on conspiracies. I once ran a security operation on a golf resort on Cape Cod which hired numerous young adults from all over the world. They were instructed to never speak anything other than English because English speakers became paranoid at hearing other languages. I speak English, Italian and French, as well as some German and Spanish. I disregarded the instruction and spoke what I needed to clear up difficulties and settle situations effectively and quickly.  

I think that Pope Francis has made a good decision to make things seem more transparent. But truthfully, there is nothing  secret about the archives other than the fact that English is faulted in its often stodgy ability with translation and lack of contextual clarity, particularly with American English mixed with American self-centrism. 

Deacon William Gallerizzo 
Cape Cod, Massachusetts,  United States   

Communion test 

SIR – I was very sad to hear that Joe Biden was denied Communion in South Carolina. Denying Jesus to someone is perhaps “unforgivable”. I do not know. What I do know is that there are Catholic politicians that support the death penalty and they are not being denied communion.  

Abortion and the death penalty are but two of many life issues, as the Catholic Church teaches. The treatment of refugees and migrants is also a life issue, as Pope Francis has frequently mentioned. Environmental issues are now central life issues, yet we have many Republican Catholics who deny climate change. Are they also going to be denied Communion? We could go on with issues of war, gun violence, racism and healthcare.  

If Biden is denied Communion, then let the priests deny Communion to the rest of the politicians who fail to follow Church teaching.  

Finally, we should look at ourselves and see if we pass the test placed by some in order to receive Christ in the Eucharist.  

Only God is good, the rest of us rely on his mercy.

Antonio Ramirez 
San Antonio, Texas, United States 

Unexpected privilege  

SIR – An “expert liturgist” (Letters, October 27) I am not, but presumably the Bishops’ Conference would have consulted one before  approving “Celebrations of the Word and Communion” (Letters, October 18). 

It is not, I believe, parishioners who arrange to have a “pretend Mass” (Letters, October 25), but the parish priest authorises and arranges a Liturgy of the Word and Communion when absent. The announcement of these  

services have, I’ve noticed in the past, prompted the departure of some attendees – which is, of course, always an option.  

Receiving the Sacrament after a short liturgical service when unable to attend Mass through incapacity has always been an unexpected privilege which neither I nor the lay ministers who administer it, nor the parish priest who authorised it, have considered demeaning or an affront to God. Is this essentially any different from a Communion service? 

Pauline Harvey 
Bristol, Somerset