Damian Thompson Damian Thompson

Anglican bishop: Rome must protect Christians from Islamism

The Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester and an evangelical Christian, has delivered a remarkable message to a group of Catholics:

‘Bishop Nazir-Ali said that, with the growth of Islamic militancy and the persecution of Christians worldwide, many people were now looking to Rome as the voice that could stem the tide. He said these people included many Evangelicals who never, in the past, would have thought about Rome. ‘So the Catholic Church has both a great opportunity and also a great responsibility.’

He is right on two counts. First, that the persecution of Christians worldwide is overwhelmingly the work of Muslim militants – as the Archbishop of Canterbury has acknowledged, though only the Pakistani-born Bishop Nazir-Ali has spoken with true clarity on this matter.

Second, that many evangelical Protestants now look to Rome as the world’s chief defender of Christian values – values that Dr Nazir-Ali felt that his fellow C of E bishops were failing to uphold, which is why he resigned his see to run Oxtrad, a charity that trains missionaries.

What fascinates me is context in which the bishop made his remarks. He was speaking to members of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, a group of ex-Anglicans who converted to Rome. Actually, they are more than a group: they are a formal structure set up by Pope Benedict, who gave them their own Mass incorporating sublime passages from the Book of Common Prayer.

I love the Ordinariate, though I despair at the lack of support it has been given by the English Catholic bishops and the sneers directed at them by Anglo-Catholics who have decided to stay put. Fair play to Cardinal Nichols, though: he has lent them one of London’s most beautiful little churches, Our Lady of the Assumption and St Gregory, Warwick Street.

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