Thursday, February 16, 2012

Cooperation not confrontation

HM the Queen speaking at Lambeth Palace, London

As the Administration in the USA continues to pursue its own idiosyncratic approach to Church-State relations, the United Kingdom is showing signs that it wants a much closer role for religious bodies in the public sphere.

First, there has been a successful two day official visit by a UK Government delegation headed by a Cabinet Minister to the Vatican.

The official communique has been issued.

Unlike in the USA at present, the talks between the Vatican and the UK Government  were lengthy, deep and wide-ranging.

The communique is here

L`Osservatore Romano  also printed as an editorial a statement by the leader of the delegation, Baroness Warsi. It was entitled: "Common Objectives"

In it amongst other things she wrote:

"At the heart of the Queen’s government’s policies, at home as well as overseas, is concern for the support and promotion of fundamental rights and values, underpinning democracy, and sustaining a culture of social, economic and political responsibility, from communities on the ground to the level of government. Expressed through faith, these are also the priorities of the Holy See. Through the Caritas Internationalis network and Catholic NGOs in particular, and their vital work in aid relief, education and healthcare, the Holy See touches the lives of millions of people. 
Our bilateral talks will of course see discussions on hard power questions, from giving impetus to this year’s multilateral talks on an Arms Trade Treaty and small arms proliferation, to the future of the Middle East. From Britain’s efforts to help bring peace and hope to Somalia and the Horn of Africa after years of civil war and under-development, to the impact of the Eurozone crisis on European societies, structures and politics, including in the United Kingdom."

It is no coincidence at the time of the meeting HM the Queen delivered a strongly worded speech to leaders of Britain's nine main religions at Lambeth Palace, London home of the Archbishop of Canterbury

She chose to make her speech on the first public occasion marking her Diamond Jubilee which is surely significant

The Telegraph said:

"[S]he highlighted the importance of faith in society and the "critical guidance" it offered in life. 
"The concept of our established Church is occasionally misunderstood and, I believe, commonly under-appreciated," she said.  
"Its role is not to defend Anglicanism to the exclusion of other religions. Instead, the Church has a duty to protect the free practice of all faiths in this country."  
The monarch, speaking at the first public event to mark her Diamond Jubilee, said that Church was "woven into the fabric of this country" and had helped to build a better society.  
It has "created an environment for other faith communities and indeed people of no faith to live freely", she added. 
Cooperation with religious bodies  not confrontation now at last appears to be the religious policy of the United Kingdom