I found this article in ‘Vatican Insider‘ vaguely interesting. Sadly much of the background information was taken from the former Catholic paper ‘The Tablet’. I leave it to you, dear reader to decide if this is a true reflection of the Isles.
“The Tablet” magazine has carried out a thorough investigation on the uneasiness that infects all of the country’s experiences
SOS: a society without God. The reservations the Vatican has about certain British policies are well known, starting with the obligation, even for the Catholic NGOs, to allow homosexual couples to adopt. “God is constantly watching over us, to guide us and protect us,” Benedict XVI assured his audience a year and a half ago, in Westminster Hall, urging politicians not to leave out religion because faith is “not a problem to be solved but a vital factor.”
Now, the influential liberal British Catholic magazine The Tablet has acted on the Pope’s invitation and published an extensive study to ascertain the importance of the role of religion in public life in the United Kingdom. The Pope’s guidelines to UK bishops leave room for doubt: a society that recognizes the primacy of conscience, and therefore what God has placed within the heart of man, becomes intolerant of believers.
And that is why The Tablet has published a study involving 240 academics, researchers and students from 38 British universities. Five centuries after the death sentence of Tommaso Moro due to the refusal by the British politician and intellectual to accept the King’s Act of supremacy over the Catholic Church, in September 2010 Benedict XVI entered Westminster Hall for the first time, the great hall inside the palace of the British Parliament used not only to celebrate coronation banquets, funerals and solemn ceremonials to the Crown, but also to decide and vote for the condemnation of Moro. The most practiced religion in Britain is the Christian faith.
The Church of England is in fact the official State church. Christianity was introduced in the country during the Roman period, in fact legend has it that Joseph of Arimathea was the first to proclaim his gospel. But the fundamental “Christianization” expanded in the country through important figures such as St. Augustine (i.e. the first bishop of Canterbury) and others such as St. Aidan of Lindisfarnen, Christian missionary known as the apostle of Northumbria. Fundamental of course is the story “English religion”! As we know, in 1536 the English Church separated from Rome due to the divorce of King Henry VIII from Catherine of Aragon. A new ecclesiastical authority was therefore introduced, with one reform of particular importance: the English church took on new positions in the Christian world, which it called Anglicanism. And Benedict XVI reminded the 1,800 political figures, academics, religious and diplomatic heads of the Catholic Church what Moro meant for the United Kingdom. This was a man who in the name of loyalty to his “own conscience” did not fear the “sovereign displeasure” of Henry VIII, who founded the Anglican Church after his divorce from Queen Catherine: he served the sovereign because he served God and what his conscience told him was right.
Importantly, it was Benedict XVI who beatified Cardinal John Henry Newman, the man who made the “primacy of conscience” the meaning of his existence. He recalled that the church does not wish to impose values on governments. It simply wants to remind people that moral principles have their basis in reason. Each man can consciously recognize them as true. Most religions fundamentally separate the role of man and woman; in fact in Britain in the 19th Century there was a widespread belief that women were more devout than men. The predominance of women was in fact greater in the Anglican and Catholic churches, and religion weighed heavily in their lives. In families, it was the mother who took care of the children, arranging for baptism andgiving them religious instruction. Catholicism is still, however, the second largest Christian faith in England.
Among other religions, apart from Christianity, Islam stands out with two and a half million followers (especially in London) and also Judaism, Sikhism and Hinduism. Pagan religions are expanding and increasing rapidly, without excluding, of course, given the British tradition, the neo-pagan practice of Wikka. In the United Kingdom as well, in the country that wants to make tolerance the core of its public life – Benedict XVI warned during his trip to Scotland and England – “there are some who argue that the voice of religion should be silenced or at the most relegated to the private sphere. There aresome who argue that the public celebration of feasts such as Christmas should be discouraged, according to the questionable belief that it might somehow offend those who belong to other religions or no religion.”
One of the things that makes British religion different from that of Wales and Scotland, is the predominance of Anglicanism. Indeed, internal pluralism has been one of its main features. But another factor to bear in mind, is the relative independence of the Anglican clergy with respect to both lay people and bishops. In England, church attendance was relatively lower in large cities (with an average attendance of 50% of the population), than in rural areas (71%).
In the 19th Century for example, Anglicanism was evidently strong in the south and east, and relatively weak in the north and east of the country; a dense network of parishes was then set up in the most prosperous agricultural regions that could support a larger number of priests (uncomfortable mountainous regions were therefore neglected).