How prophetic were Fulton Sheen’s words 80 years ago

Christians must go to the cross for the truth

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Fulton Sheen: his writing of 1933 predicted the world today

Fulton Sheen: his writing of 1933 predicted the world today

Having recently blogged about the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen, I note an American blogger, Little Catholic Bubble, is reading his “Seven Last Words and the Seven Virtues” as a Lenten exercise. Reading one of the excerpts pulled me up short. The book was published as long ago as 1933 but it could be describing with uncanny accuracy the situation today. Sheen wrote, “We are at the end of a tradition and a civilization which believed we could preserve Christianity without Christ, religion without a creed, meditation without sacrifice, family life without moral responsibility, sex without purity and economics without ethics. We have completed our experiment of living without God…”

How prescient he was, though I am surprised that even in 1933, when Christian traditions and values in society and in family life still seemed to be stable and intact, he could see the writing on the wall. I think even Sheen would have been staggered at the speed at which his prophesy has been realised: changes in the definition and meaning of marriage; routine and widespread abortion; increasing pressure to legalise euthanasia – these are only some of the more obvious features of modern life taken for granted in the western world.

I have been sent a copy of the Meditations for Lent of Bishop Jaques-Benigne Bossuet. Reading him puts Sheen’s grim warnings into a divine perspective. Famous in 17th century France for his preaching and writings, Bossuet is about as far removed from modern “spirituality” writing as you can get. He is solely occupied with the state of the soul and its progress in the Christian life. This makes him a classic, like Thomas a Kempis, but it probably doesn’t put him high on the lists of popular books today, even for Lent (though I see that Jeff Mirus of Catholic Culture.org, who is also reading his Meditations, endorses him).

Just to give you a flavour of him: for Friday in week 4 of Lent his chapter (they are all very short) is entitled “Up to Jerusalem”. Bossuet tells us, “…in his suffering and in our obligation to follow him and to carry our cross after him is our salvation.” He goes on: “Consider how prone we are to self-deception, how we play deaf when we are told something that would injure our passions or sensibilities, and how, no matter how plainly we are spoken to, we stop our ears, pretending not o hear…” Bossuet concludes this chapter with the warning: “Understand, Christian, how hard it is to go up to the Cross with Jesus and how great is our need for his grace.”

I  sometimes think we inside the Church can get so worked up about “issues” – the informal “style” adopted by Pope Francis, whether one form of the liturgy is “better” than another and so on – that we lose sight of the one thing needful, pointed out by Bishop Bossuet. As I write this, the words of Bishop Egan of Portsmouth, who I blogged about last week, echo in my ears: “We will, being Christian, have to suffer and have to go to the Cross… because you have to witness to the truth.”

A brave Catholic blogger, Caroline Farrow of Catholic Voices, also discovered this when she spoke up from the floor in a recent BBC Question Time debate. The Catholic Herald this week relates her experience with the headline, “Blogger “spat at” after debating same-sex marriage on television.” Having watched a Youtube clip of this event, the hostility directed at Caroline is palpable.

Christians who put their head above the parapet and stand up for what they believe will increasingly discover to their cost what it is like to live in the kind of world that Fulton Sheen foretold so prophetically.

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Statement by Bp. Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the Society of St. Pius X, on the new pastoral approach to marriage according to Cardinal Kasper

url:Statement by Bp. Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the Society of St. Pius X, on the new pastoral approach to marriage according to Cardinal Kasper | DICI

12-04-2014
Filed under Documents

mgr_fellay_1 What will happen at the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops that is to be held October 5 – 19, 2014, dedicated to “the pastoral challenges for the family in the context of evangelization?” This question is asked with great concern, since during the last Consistory, on February 20, 2014, Cardinal Walter Kasper, at the request of Pope Francis and with his emphatic support, presented the topic of the next Synod by making supposedly pastoral overtures that were doctrinally scandalous.

This presentation, which was initially supposed to remain secret, was published in the press, and the agitated debates that it sparked among the members of the Consistory ended up being revealed as well.  One university professor dared to speak about a veritable “cultural revolution” (Roberto de Mattei), and one journalist described as a “paradigm shift” the fact that Cardinal Kasper proposes that divorced-and-“remarried” Catholics could go to Communion, even without their earlier marriage being annulled:  “at present that is not the case, based on Jesus’ very severe and explicit words about divorce.” (Sandro Magister)

Some prelates have spoken up against this change, such as Cardinal Carlo Caffara, Archbishop of Bologna, who asked:  “What about the first ratified and consummated marriage?  If the Church admits [the divorced-and-“remarried”] to the Eucharist, she must however render a judgment about the legitimacy of the second union.  That is only logical.  But then -as I asked-what about the first marriage?  The second, they say, cannot be a true second marriage, because bigamy goes against the Lord’s words.  And what about the first one? Is it dissolved?  But the Popes have always taught that the power of the Pope cannot go that far:  the Pope has no authority over a ratified and consummated marriage.  The solution proposed (by Cardinal Kasper) leads one to think that the first marriage remains, but there is also a second form of cohabitation that the Church legitimizes….  The fundamental question is therefore simple:  what about the first marriage?  But no one gives an answer.”  (Il Foglio, March 15, 2014)

One could add the serious objections formulated by Cardinals Gerhard Ludwig Müller, Walter Brandmüller, Angelo Bagnasco, Robert Sarah, Giovanni Battista Re, Mauro Piacenza, Angelo Scola, Camillo Ruini….  But these objections, too, remain unanswered.

We cannot wait, without speaking up, for the Synod to be held next October in the disastrous spirit that Cardinal Kasper wants to give to it.  The attached study, entitled “The New Pastoral Approach to marriage according to Cardinal Kasper” shows the gross errors contained in his presentation.  Not to denounce them would amount to leaving the door open to the dangers pointed out by Cardinal Caffarra:  “Therefore there would be such a thing as extramarital human sexuality that the Church considers legitimate.  But that negates the central pillar of the Church’s teaching on sexuality.  At that point someone might wonder:  then why not approve of extramarital cohabitation?  Or relations between homosexuals?”  (Ibid.)

Whereas in recent months many families have demonstrated courageously against civil laws that, everywhere, are undermining the natural, Christian family, it is simply scandalous to see these same laws surreptitiously supported by churchmen who wish to align Catholic doctrine and morality with the morals of a de-Christianized society, instead of seeking to convert souls.  A pastoral approach that scoffs at the explicit teaching of Christ on the indissolubility of marriage is not merciful but insulting to God, who grants His grace sufficiently to everyone; and it is cruel toward the souls who, when placed in difficult situations, receive the grace that they need in order to live a Christian life and even to grow in virtue, to the point of heroism.

Menzingen, April 12, 2014

+Bernard Fellay
Superior General of the Society of St. Pius X

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Francis: “Even today there’s a dictatorship of narrow-mindedness”

 
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Pope Francis

Pope Francis

At this morning’s mass in St. Martha’s House the Pope said that this dictatorship “it takes up stones to stone the freedom of the people, the freedom of the people, their freedom of conscience, the relationship of the people with God”

Andrea Tornielli
vatican city taken from Vatican Insider

Today there is a dictatorship of narrow-mindedness that kills people’s freedom. This was the Pope’s message at his morning mass celebration in St. Martha’s House. 

 

In his homily Francis reflected on the attitude of the Pharisees and how closed they were to Jesus’ message. Their mistake, the Pope pointed out, was “detaching the commandments from the heart of God.”  They thought everything could be resolved by respecting the commandments. But these commandments “are not just a cold law,” because they are born from a relationship of love and are “indications” that help us avoid mistakes in our journey to meet Jesus, Vatican Radio says, quoting the Pope’s words.

 

By doing so, the Pharisees close their hearts and minds to “all things new.” “This is the drama of the closed heart, the drama of the closed mind – the Pope said – and when the heart is closed, this heart closes the mind, and when the heart and mind are closed there is no place for God,” only for what we believe should be done.


It is a closed way of thinking that is not open to dialogue, to the possibility that there is something else, the possibility that God speaks to us, tells us about His journey, as he did to the prophets. These people did not listen to the prophets and did not listen to Jesus. It is something greater than a mere stubbornness. No, it is more: it is the idolatry of their own way of thinking. ‘I think this, it has to be this way, and nothing more’. These people had a narrow line of thought and wanted to impose this way of thinking on the people of God, Jesus rebukes them for this: ‘ You burden the people with many commandments and you do not touch them with your finger’.”

Francis noted that Jesus “rebukes their incoherence.” “The theology of these people becomes a slave to this pattern, this pattern of thought: a narrow line of thought“. “There is no possibility of dialogue; there is no possibility to open up to new things which God brings with the prophets. They killed the prophets, these people; they close the door to the promise of God. When this phenomenon of narrow thinking enters human history, how many misfortunes. We all saw in the last century, the dictatorships of narrow thought , which ended up killing a lot of people, but when they believed they were the overlords, no other form of though was allowed. This is the way they think.”


“Even today there is the idolatry of a narrow line of thought,” Francis said. “Today we have to think in this way and if you do not think in this way, you are not modern, you’re not open or worse. Often rulers say: ‘I have asked for aid, financial support for this’, ‘ But if you want this help, you have to think in this way and you have to pass this law, and this other law and this other law…’ Even today, there is a dictatorship of a narrow line of thought and this dictatorship is the same as these people: it takes up stones to stone the freedom of the people, the freedom of the people, their freedom of conscience, the relationship of the people with God. Today Jesus is crucified once again.”

 

“The Lord’s exhortation “faced with this dictatorship is always the same: be vigilant and pray; do not be silly, do not buy” things “you do not need, be humble and pray, that the Lord always gives us the freedom of an open heart, to receive his Word which is joy and promise and covenant! And with this covenant move forward!”” the Pope concluded this morning’s mass by saying.

Mumbailaity View

Are there any Pharisees sitting in Archbishops House in Mumbai who  close their hearts and minds to “all things new.”

Are there any Pharisees who choose not to reply to uncomfortable letters?

Are there any Pharisees who deliberately do not publish letters sent to them?

Are there any Pharisees in Archbishops House who ‘  burden the people with many commandments and they themselves do not touch them with their finger’.”

Posted in Church News in Mumbai/Thane/Navi Mumbai | 1 Comment

Should Pope Francis have abandoned the trappings of his office? The media image now is of a pontiff rejecting the traditions of the Church

Pope Benedict was no less a pontiff of profound personal humility because he wore red shoes and lived in the papal apartments

By taken from Catholicherald.uk

Pope Benedict famously wore red Prada shoes

Pope Benedict famously wore red Prada shoes

Father Longenecker has an amusing blog this week, headlined “archbishops should live in palaces”. “I think the Pope should live in the Apostolic Palace”, he says, “and I think Archbishop Wilton [Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta, who is moving out three months after moving in] should live in his brand new $2.2m home. I think Bishops should live in these grand homes–-but they should do so like one of those impoverished English aristocrats who can’t afford to heat their vast Downton Abbey, and so live in one room in the attic wearing three sweaters and eating cat food casseroles that they cook in a microwave.}

I think the bit about the catfood could be a joke: but Fr Dwight is serious enough about the rest. He thinks that bishops should live in these grand buildings in community with other priests or brothers if they are religious, and should open them up as hostels for recovering addicts and the other end of the buildings maybe as women’s shelters and that they should bring in some Mother Teresa nuns to run these now possibly over-ambitious establishments. You get the idea. This, he says, would “be a far more significant sign of contradiction than simply moving out to a mean little room somewhere because it would say something more profound about worldly wealth and property.” I agree with all that. Cardinal Bergoglio lived alone in a small flat in Buenos Aires and cooked for himself, but wasn’t that because he actually preferred to live like that? And I don’t see there’s anything wrong, either, with a bishop living in a certain degree of modest comfort: after a hard day on the stump, why shouldn’t he have somewhere decent to come back to, and why shouldn’t he have a hot meal waiting for him when he gets there, and his bed turned down and maybe a sweetie on his pillow?

Fr Dwight goes on to argue that there’s nothing intrinsically good about poverty. I agree with that, too, but I think that when a bishop moves out of his “palace” and a pope refuses to move into the papal apartments, they’re making a point not about poverty but about humility (their own). And though Pope Francis may indeed be a genuinely humble person what I object to particularly in the media coverage of his pontificate is that because of the way he has chosen to live in the Vatican, in a flat in the Casa Santa Marta rather than where popes are supposed to live, he is ipso fact a lot more humble than previous popes, who after all simply surrendered themselves to the way things had always been done, as a way of identifying themselves with the traditions their predecessors had always embodied, as a visible indication of a hermeneutic of continuity.

Nothing I say now, with one or two minor exceptions, is intended as a major criticism of the current pontiff: I think he is playing a blinder, and I am not one of those reactionaries who interprets his frisky ways as an indication that he is some kind of liberal: I am, rather, one of those reactionaries who thinks that in spite of all those spontaneous remarks that have to be corrected later, he is just as reactionary as I am. He’s giving the Vatican a considerable shakeup, which was long overdue: and I am confident, or at least hopeful, that in the end, he will leave the institution he now governs in better heart than he found it, and no less faithful to the Magisterium Pope John intended Vatican II to articulate and not to undermine (remember his opening words to the Council fathers? “The Councils–both the twenty ecumenical ones and the numberless others …. all prove clearly the vigour of the Catholic Church and are recorded as shining lights in her annals.”

Pope John’s intentions were wilfully betrayed: and I have no doubt that attempts will be made to betray those of Pope Francis, too. These are uncertain times. But I agree with Fr Z’s analysis, that Pope Francis is himself endorsing, even emboding, Pope Benedict’s ideas on the hermeneutic of continuity.

I mentioned an exception to my declaration that I do not intend in this post to criticise Pope Francis: it is this. That by refusing to move into the papal apartments, and by all the other ways in which he rejects what his predecessors did (including the red shoes and the scarlet velvet mozzetta) he SEEMS to be (though of course he is not) indicating a superior humility to that of his more lofty predecessors: in particular, the media seem to think that he is obviously more humble, more identified with the poor and marginalised, than reactionary pope Benedict—who in fact simply attempted to convey the lofty character not of himself but of his sacred office, by dressing and behaving according to papal custom.

Pope John, after all, was crowned with the papal tiara, and allowed himself to be carried aloft on a sedia gestatoria. Does anyone really think—has anyone ever remotely suggested—that that meant that he wasn’t after all a humble and holy father of all Catholics, a true Vicar of Christ? In the early days, Fr Z (like I and many others did) still lived in hopes that the present pope would dress and ceremoniously comport himself as popes have always done. On the day of his inauguration mass, Fr Z wrote this:

Tomorrow the Pope has an audience with delegations of Christian “churches”. Were the Pope to put on the mozzetta, that would be a good occasion. That would be the apt thing to do. It would be a sign of respect. The Pope will also soon have an audience with the diplomatic corps. The Pope, a head of state, should dress his part. The rest of the diplomats will.

This leads to “the point”, in case some of the enthusiasts run to the combox having missed it.

Remember, a mozzetta, in itself, is nothing. Popes don’t have to wear a mozzetta all the time. There are, however, occasions in which such trappings and signs of office, solemn and traditional, have their proper place. They send signals. The non-use of these symbols also sends signals.

People who say that these things are not important, or are bad, or that they should be eliminated are just plain wrong. That is a naive, shallow, approach to who we are. Catholics are not “either/or” when it comes to the dynamic interplay of the humble and the lofty. We are “both/and”, in proper measure, time and place.

I agree with all of that. And I end with one or two simple questions. Firstly, does anyone seriously think, because he wore the scarlet mozzetta and red shoes, and went to his duties driven in a white Merc (by a driver who wept at his final departure) that Pope Benedict was NOT the profoundly humble and holy man he clearly was, for all that he didn’t consciously project humility?

My final questions are these: does Pope Francis’s abolition of what Fr Z calls the “trappings and signs of office, solemn and traditional” not carry a certain danger: that of making his own papacy appear to be a projection of his own engaging personality and of the ways of doing things that he personally finds come naturally to him?

And when all that is snuffed out by death, is there not the danger that what he will leave behind him will be what will be for a time a simple vacuum, rather than a sede vacante capable of being occupied reasonably soon as a going concern?

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Why Francis is struggling to shrink the Roman Curia

Despite establishing the super cardinals, so far the Pope has overseen only piecemeal reforms

By Taken from the catholicherald.uk

Pope Francis making his first annual address to the members of the Roman Curia in December (CNS)

Pope Francis making his first annual address to the members of the Roman Curia in December (CNS)

I am told that last week’s consistory was the occasion for sumptuous celebrations in more than one Roman ecclesiastical institution. A priest remarked to me that Pope Francis, who had asked his cardinals elect to eschew extravagant celebrations, was perhaps like Our Lord Himself: much quoted but destined to be very imperfectly followed in practice.

Paradox, in fact, has been one of the salient points of the pontificate so far. Francis flees ostentation and yet is arguably more in the public eye than the charismatic John Paul II, and certainly put on a pedestal more than Benedict XVI. In choosing him, the conclave was above all determined to bring about a radical reform of a Roman Curia which was widely seen as an inefficient and bloated bureaucracy. And yet, a year after his election, while radical changes in tone and style have been remarked in almost every aspect of his ministry, the area of curial reform has perhaps been the one in which the pace of change has been slowest and the implementation of change most cautious.

Last April, the Vatican announced the creation of a council of eight “Super-Cardinals” to advise the Pope on the reform of the Curia, and on the governance of the Church in general. The council met for the first time in October, and again last month, but so far few concrete changes have emerged. One problem is that the redrafting of John Paul II’s apostolic constitution Pastor Bonus of 1988, the effective “constitution” of the Curia, would require a massive collaboration of expert canon lawyers needing years to be carried through. Pope Francis, for now at least, seems to prefer piecemeal change.

In terms of personnel, there has been no momentous ringing of the changes. True, a few prominent Ratzingerians have been demoted. The new secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, is a curial insider, highly regarded for his skills in administration and diplomacy. While he emerged from the school favouring realpolitik over anything that might be construed as the aggressive promotion of the Church’s own political agenda, he is no revolutionary. In fact, many see him as a guarantor of institutional stability in a papacy whose keynote seems to be unpredictability. Probably the other most significant appointment so far is that of the Australian Cardinal George Pell to oversee a consolidation and reform of the Vatican’s financial organisation. Cardinal Pell, usually seen as a theological conservative, is charged with the direction of a new dicastery, the secretariat for the economy, which will oversee the functioning of the disparate entities currently responsible for the finances of the Holy See. The drive for greater transparency and accountability is thus being managed by a figure who represents continuity with the previous pontificate.

It is, then, perhaps another irony that one of the first substantial changes involves the creation of an entire new department, whereas many were expecting a slimming down of the Curia. The same irony seems to be present in the persistent rumours that another new congregation is to be created, dedicated to the promotion of the role of the laity. It is true that there are congregations for bishops and for the clergy, whereas the laity represents by far the largest section of the Church. The idea of grouping the various pontifical councils for the laity, for migrants, for the family and for justice and peace under the aegis of a single congregation does seem like a rationalisation. However, consider that there is also talk of creating a new congregation for culture and the new evangelisation, to include the present councils for culture, new evangelisation and social communications. Then there is the creation of a commission for the protection of minors, already underway. However vital these priorities are, one is left wondering how the impression of profusion can give way to one of retrenchment.

There is certainly a retrenchment underway, however, in the existing departments. A freeze on recruitment has been announced, some officials have already left Rome to re-join their dioceses of origin, and an overtime ban apparently enforced. Economy and efficiency are the new watchwords. In fact, it is persistently rumoured that the secretary of state is soon to lose its function of coordinator of the entire curial machine, and of spearheading reform, with the creation of a role of moderator of the Curia at the head of his own secretariat. There are strong rumours that the first incumbent will be Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, presently responsible for the governance of the Vatican City State. Cardinal Parolin’s department would thus lose its pole position in the Curia and become a department like any other, with its competence reduced to that of running the Holy See’s diplomatic service.

What would be the overall effect of such a change? Doubtless to make the Pope a freer agent. The impression many outsiders have
of the Church is as an extremely monolithic organisation with absolute power vested in the Pope. In fact, the Curia has historically displayed tendencies to exert a counterbalancing power with which successive popes have often had to struggle and compromise. The present Holy Father seems quite ready to override resistance in matters close to his heart. In the matter of choosing bishops for his native Argentina, for example, he has apparently disregarded the usual procedures and chosen his own preferred candidates directly. There are those who suggest that his preferred strategy is, in fact, to surround himself with a few trusted men and, rather than wait to reform the existing structures, render them irrelevant.

So, in the end we return to the theme of paradox. The Pope who talks so much of collegiality, who shows such little patience with the trappings of power, is not afraid to act decisively on his own authority and to impose forcefully the agenda he believes that God has chosen him to implement. I believe that he knows precisely what he is doing, but apart from a few close collaborators, few others do as yet. The coming months may be as full of surprises as the last 12 have been.

Fr Mark Drew is a priest currently working in the Archdiocese of Liverpool

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Dutch Jesuit priest in Homs killed

By Taken from catholicherald.uk

Fr van der Lugt with Syrian civilians in January

A Dutch Jesuit priest who chose to remain in the besieged city of Homs to care for its starving population has been shot dead.

Fr Frans van der Lugt, a 75-year-old psychotherapist, had stayed in the rebel-controlled Old City throughout the two-year long siege by Syrian government forces, despite being offered the chance to escape. On Monday Jan Stuyt, secretary of the Dutch Jesuit province, confirmed that Fr van der Lugt had been killed by a masked gunman in the ancient city’s Bustan al-Diwan district. He said: “A man came into his house, took him outside and shot him twice in the head.”

In a statement, the Vatican praised Fr van der Lugt as a “man of peace” and expressed “great pain” over his death. Spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi, a fellow Jesuit, said Fr van der Lugt “showed great courage in remaining loyal to the Syrian people despite an extremely risky and difficult situation”.

Fr van der Lugt’s death came on the day government forces launched an assault in the city, killing more than a dozen people, but it is still not known which side killed him.

At his general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis prayed for Fr van der Lugt. The Pope said that the priest’s “brutal killing” filled him with “profound sorrow”.

Crossbench peer Lord Alton of Liverpool said: “He joins a long list of Jesuit martyrs who have sacrificed their lives truly believing that a man has no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends. His death is a stark reminder of the systematic campaign by jihadists intent on the destruction of the region’s ancient churches.”
Lord Alton spoke on Tuesday at a prayer service for Syria at the Jesuit Farm Street in London, organised by Aid to the Church in Need.

He said: “We in the West, who enjoy so many freedoms and liberties, need to ask ourselves some tough questions about the disproportionate nature of the causes which we so readily embrace whilst ignoring the systematic, violent ideology of an Islamist ‘Final Solution’.”

Fr van der Lugt was born in 1938 and studied as a psychotherapist before joining the Jesuits. In 1966 he arrived in Syria, having spent two years in Lebanon studying Arabic. He ministered to Christians and tried to help poor families, setting up an agricultural project in the 1980s to help young people with disabilities.

There were 50,000 Christians in Homs at the start of the Syrian Civil War, while today an estimated 20 to 25 faithful remain.

In February 1,400 people were able to leave Homs after a UN-supervised truce. Many of the city’s remaining Christians left, but Fr van der Lugt chose to stay.

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David Cameron: Christians are the most persecuted around the world

By Taken from Catholicherald.uk

The prime minister spoke up against Christian persecution

The prime minister spoke up against Christian persecution

The prime minister has said the British government should stand up against the persecution of Christians abroad.

Speaking at an Easter reception in Downing Street, David Cameron said that: “It is the case that Christians are now the most persecuted religion around the world. We should stand up against persecution of Christians and other faith groups wherever and whenever we can.”

According to Bloomberg media, Mr Cameron said his “moments of greatest peace” come “perhaps every other Thursday morning” when he attends Eucharist at St. Mary Abbots, High St Kensington, which is attached to the school his children attend. “I find a little bit of peace and hopefully a bit of guidance.”

He also paid tribute to the  work of churches, and said that after the death of his son Ivan in 2009 the local vicar Mark Abrey, was “the person who looked after me”. He said: “I can’t think of anyone who was more loving or thoughtful or kind.”

Earlier this week Fr van der Lugt, a 75-year-old Dutch Jesuit who has spent 50 years in Syria, was murdered in Homs by an unknown gunman.

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