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Tim Farron was given a hard time for being Christian, says cardinal

Cardinal Nichols speaks at an interfaith iftar alongside London Mayor Sadiq Khan and the Chief Rabbi (Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales/Mazur)

Cardinal Vincent Nichols has expressed his disappointment over the resignation of Tim Farron as leader of the Liberal Democrat party, saying that he had “undoubtedly been given a hard time”.

The cardinal said he was “sorry to read Mr Farron’s statement and I recognise the hurt it expresses. Undoubtedly he has been given a hard time.

“This country has a long and continuing history of very committed Christians making major and sustained contributions to our political life. Our current Prime Minister is just one example.”

Canon Pat Browne, the Catholic chaplain to Parliament also expressed his sorrow, saying that he was “very saddened by the resignation of Mr Farron and alarmed if it is true that there is no place in Parliament for a committed Christian. It’s a judgement on the way we do politics in this country.”

Crossbench peer Lord Alton of Liverpool, a former Liberal Democrat MP, also released a statement appearing to lay the blame at the door of the party, noting that millions of British people share Tim Farron’s Christian beliefs.

“It is ironic that a Party, which I joined as a teenager, because of its belief in conscience, human rights and free speech, has morphed into something so narrow and intolerant…that its leader has been forced to choose between his Faith and his Party.”

While Tim Farron should never have been forced to make this choice, said Lord Alton, he has nonetheless made the right call and should be admired for doing so.

Cardinal Nichols was speaking at the launch of the Catholic Voices ‘Reframe’ parish speakers programme, at Holy Apostles Church, Pimlico on Wednesday night. Prior to learning of Mr Farron’s resignation, Cardinal Nichols had talked about the need for Catholics, along with people of all faiths, to be able to find their voice in society.

Reflecting on the fact that Catholic voices in the public square will often face hostility and scorn as “there are influences, individuals, institutions and groups who will want to silence (them) and belittle the project of faith”, the Cardinal went on to note that “the voices are there, and if anything, getting stronger”.

On Tuesday night the Cardinal had, he told the audience, hosted an interfaith ‘iftar’ – where Muslims break their daily fast with an evening meal after sunset during Ramadan – at Archbishop’s House in Westminster, which had been attended by young people belonging to many different faiths, including Islam, Judaism and Christianity who all wanted to learn what they could do to let the voice of their own faith along with those of others, be heard.

The gathering had, said the Cardinal, been full of energy with young people who were eager for clarity about their own faith and not for “a mishmash or the lowest common denominator. They wanted voices that were clear and confident so that faiths could understand each other.”

The “Great British value of tolerance” is no longer sufficient, said Cardinal Nichols. “We want to put together a society where there is far more than tolerance”, he said, stating that this tolerance needs “to have roots, something that nurtures…and a sense of where the dignity of every individual comes from.”

The Cardinal went on to note that even though the state may attempt to defend rights which flow from the dignity of the human person, “the dignity itself is innate in the human person from the Creator”.