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EU Grant for Zanzibar cathedral: The Church of England Newspaper, October 18, 2013 October 27, 2013

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Christ Church Cathedral in Zanzibar has been awarded a grant by the EU to build a heritage and education centre on the cathedral’s precincts to commemorate the abolition of slavery.

Construction on the coral stone Gothic cathedral began in 1873 on the site of Zanzibar’s old slave market, with the altar located on the spot of the slave market’s whipping post. Consecrated in 1903 the church has a barrel vault cement roof and incorporates perpendicular Gothic and Islamic architectural details.

Funds from the EU grant, supported by the U.S. State Department and the Governments of Tanzania and Zanzibar, will also go towards the material upkeep and repair of the cathedral.. The project will also provide heritage management training to the Wakf commission, which administers Islamic institutions on the island and is responsible for over 50 per cent of the historic housing stock in Stone Town, the island’s capital.

The project will be implemented by World Monuments Fund and its partners, the Anglican Church of Tanzania, the Zanzibar Stone Town Heritage Society and the UK charity Christian Engineers in Development.

“Our hope is that the preservation and promotion of this historical site in Zanzibar will fuel a sense of common belonging for the Zanzibari people and of ownership of their cultural heritage; it should contribute to building national identity in the diversity, tolerance and solidarity between faiths, communities and peoples.” said the EU Ambassador to Tanzania, Filiberto Ceriani Sebregondi.


Bishop of Guilford elected president of CEC: The Church of England Newspaper, August 11, 2013 August 16, 2013

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The 14th Assembly of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) has elected the Bishop of Guilford, the Rt. Rev. Christopher Hill, to serve as president of the pan-European ecumenical group.

Comprising 115 Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican and Old Catholic Churches and 40 associated organizations from across Europe, delegates to last month’s meeting of the CEC Assembly also approved a new constitution “to help the European Churches to share their spiritual life, to strengthen their common witness and service, and to promote the unity of the Church and peace in the world.”

The social and economic plight of immigrants in Europe was one of the primary issues debated by the Assembly. Delegates learned the Social Charter of the Council of Europe, the EU’s human rights watchdog, will take up a complaint filed by the CEC against the Netherlands for systematic ill-treatment of illegal aliens.

Delegates also voted to move the organization’s headquarters from Geneva to Brussels in order to be closer to the European Union and related institutions. Home to the organization since 1959, the Geneva office will be closed, but a subsidiary office in Strasburg while remain open for the present.

Europe facing a “crisis of values” José Manuel Barroso tells religious leaders: The Church of England Newspaper, June 16, 2013, p 7. June 19, 2013

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László Surján, Herman van Rompuy, Bishop Michael Langrish, and José Manuel Barroso (l to r) at the EU secretariate in Brussels

The Bishop of Exeter, the Rt Rev. Michael Langrish, represented the Anglican Communion last month at a gathering of faith leaders in Brussels. Bishop Langrish along with 19 representatives from the Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist faiths were invited to voice their ideas about the future of Europe, about the European values, social issues and questions of solidarity with leaders of the EU.

On 30 May 2013 they joined José Manuel Barroso, President of the EC, Herman van Rompuy, President of the European Council, and László Surján, Vice-President of the EP to discuss the theme “Putting citizens at the heart of the European project in times of change”.

In his speech President Barroso underlined his belief that religious communities had an extremely important role in European life.

“As we are taking action to move Europe out of the economic crisis, it is clear that we also have to weather another crisis: a crisis of trust, a crisis of values. We have to bring citizens back at the heart of our common project of European integration, by debating why it makes sense to act together as a Union. I strongly believe that the active involvement of religious communities is essential in this undertaking. The religious leaders I have invited today have an important contribution to make to this EU-wide debate on the future of Europe,” he said.

The Rev. Dr. Gary Wilton, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s representative in Brussels said: “This year’s event confirmed the high standing of the Church of England in the Brussels context as well as the clear expectation that we will make a significant contribution to the high level dialogue.”

According to a statement released by the Diocese of Exeter, Dr Wilton reported that Bishop Langrish’s comments about the importance of intermediate institutions including the family were “well received” as was “his second intervention about virtue ethics”.

No Catholics in the new Europe: Get Religion, November 30, 2012 November 30, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Anglican Ink, EU, Roman Catholic Church.
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This is a great country. I’ve been privileged to live and work abroad, but there is no place like America. It’s a cleaner, cheaper, nicer place. Big cars, big hair, the big country — purple mountains majesty, amber waves of grain and all that — makes me proud to be an American. Give me a political landscape dominated by God, guns and gays and I’m happy. Yet, I must admit there are some things Europeans do better than Americans. I take away nothing from the observations made in Philip Jenkins book, “The New Anti-Catholicism, The Last Acceptable Prejudice”, but the Europeans do anti-Catholicism or anti-clericalism much better than we do.

While it is the French who have unfairly earned a reputation as cheese-eating surrender monkeys in the American psyche, it is the the European establishment — Matthew Arnold’s chatter classes — who deserve the accolade. But as church-eating surrender monkeys.

Religion has no place in the public square in European political life. In January the Irish Independent reported the Irish Labour Party had called for a secularist litmus test for senior civil servants. Catholics were bad people who needed to be kept under close scrutiny lest they undermine the government.

All senior officials in state bodies which are likely to have to deal with the Catholic Church should be screened to ensure that they will not show inappropriate deference to the Catholic Church. Those who feel they are ‘Catholic first and Irish second’ should seek promotion in other organs of the State.

Such sentiments are not exceptional. The news this week of the appointment of a new EU health commissioner offered an illustration of this Weltanschauung. On 28 Nov 2012 the BBC and the DPA (the German wire service) reported the European parliament had given its approval to the appointment of Malta’s Foreign Minister Tonio Borg as health commissioner. For those who missed this news here are extracts from the DPA story:

Maltese Foreign Minister Tonio Borg will be the European Union‘s new health commissioner, EU governments confirmed Wednesday, giving the appointment its final blessing. Borg, 55, will replace John Dalli, who resigned last month over claims he did nothing to stop an acquaintance from using his ties to ask a Swedish company for money to influence new EU tobacco rules.

Borg has vowed not to water down the rules, which he has identified as a priority and has said should be ready in January. Borg‘s nomination had proven controversial, after some EU parliamentarians raised concerns about his conservative views on abortion and homosexuality. He has pledged to abide by the EU‘s human rights charter, regardless of his personal views on social issues.

The story received more play from the Times of Malta and Malta Today, which ran a provocative second day story based upon an interview with a Swedish MEP.

Cecilia Wikström, the Liberal Swedish MEP who had dubbed Tonio Borg “a dinosaur that does not belong in our modern world” when the former foreign minister was nominated for the post of EU Commissioner, has reiterated her stand that Borg’s personal political standpoints did not make him fit for the post of health and consumers affairs policy Commissioner.

And these objectionable beliefs are?

“Borg is a very well known politician with a high education [who] would have been a fantastic leader of Europe a couple of decades ago,” Wikström said, pointing out that his conservative beliefs might put him at loggerheads with several aspects of his portfolio. “Had Borg’s portfolio been on something else, like fisheries, culture, higher education or even the internal market, he would have been a wonderful commissioner. “Since Borg’s portfolio deals with rights and the choices people make, I think this is going to be complicated for him,” Wikström said, mentioning as an example, sexual and reproductive health rights that would include the provision of safe and legal abortion for women.

Ms. Wikström, who also is a Lutheran minister, believes Borg’s Catholicism to be incompatible with government service, save in areas that don’t matter much like Fish & Agg.

The only mainstream English-language report on Borg’s appointment that I have seen that raises these questions was the New Scientist – the British science news weekly. Its article “Staunch conservative to be new EU health commissioner” framed the story around the objections to Borg’s Catholicism.

Borg is Catholic and is known for his conservative views on abortion, homosexuality and divorce. For example, he is a supporter of the Embryo Protection Act currently being debated in the Maltese parliament. If approved at the end of November, the bill will prevent experimentation on human embryos, ban egg and sperm donation, and prohibit the freezing of embryos for IVF procedures other than in a few special cases.

The article reported on the grilling MEPs gave to Borg during his confirmation hearings.

Some MEPs questioned Borg’s stance on abortion, recalling how he tried to incorporate the ban on abortion, even if the mother’s life is at risk, into Malta’s constitution. Borg replied: “The laws on abortion are a matter of national law… These are not matters within the competence of the Commission and the Union.”

But in the end Borg’s appointment was approved on a 386 to 281 with 28 abstentions. The New Scientist rounded out its story with comments from liberal MEPs who warned they would be watching Borg for signs his faith was influencing his job, and with comments from International Planned Parenthood and a stem cell researcher who said that:

“Although I do not dispute his technical skills, there is the risk that personal views, especially when radical in nature, will interfere with or slow down important projects which have already been endorsed by public opinion,” he says.

From the classical journalism perspective, the New Scientist story is incomplete. We have the back and forth between Borg and his critics, but the comments and critical observations offered that would give context are one-sided — Planned Parenthood and a stem cell researcher. Nothing is offered from those on the opposing side of the argument. That, however, is not a surprise, as the New Scientist’s reputation is one of being on the secular left — and I do not fault them for being true to their editorial line.

But from the mainstream media we have next to nothing. The wire services and the short BBC item do not do justice to the ethical issues at play. Part of the problem is the lack of space and resources. Not all stories can be covered and editors must pick and choose how they utilize their space on the page and their reporter’s time. However, I also believe there is an agreement in just about all newsrooms that the criticisms raised by the New Scientist are valid. This belief that religion belongs to the private sphere of life and is not welcome in the public square permeates the European press.

A response I hear from supporters of the secularist model runs along the lines of “If you want to hear a sermon go to church”, meaning the worlds of faith and news are so far apart that one should not trespass on the other. I do not agree. Incorporating faith or ethical issues into journalism is not proselytizing. It is being faithful to the dictates of honest fair and full reporting.

First printed in GetReligion.

Idealism and Italian Taxes: Get Religion, February 16, 2012 February 16, 2012

Posted by geoconger in EU, Get Religion, Politics, Press criticism.
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Plans to end property tax exemptions for the Catholic Church are one of the top stories in the Italian press this morning. On 15 Feb 2012 Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti released a statement saying he will introduce legislation requiring the Catholic Church to pay taxes on all its commercial properties.

Reporting on church – state issues is hard enough for American newspapers, covering overseas disputes is near impossible for most. The amount of information needed to bring a reader up to speed before he can appreciate the issues often serves to prevent a story from every being written.

The only English-language story I’ve seen on this breaking news item comes from Bloomberg BusinessWeek. It does a fair job of summarizing the facts, but is unable to give the story any context. Which will likely mean that this story will be given a pass by U.S. editors. That would be a shame.

Some GetReligion comments have argued that the effort in reporting overseas religion stories is not worth expending. They follow the Neville Chamberlain line.  Speaking of the need to appease Hitler in the face of his demands for the Sudetenland the prime minister told the House of Commons:

How horrible, fantastic, incredible it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas masks here because of a quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing.

No trenches here, but how much time should the U.S. press devote to a religion story from a far-away country and about a conflict of which we know nothing?

But lets put a stopper in the philosophical bottle and turn to the story … The key points from Bloomberg are:

The church currently pays property tax only on buildings designated as “purely commercial,” based on an Italian law originating 20 years ago and extended in 2006. The wording is ambiguous when it comes to clinics that have a chapel or monasteries that offer bed and breakfast accommodation.

The Catholic Church owns about 100,000 properties in Italy, a third of which are commercial, according to the Italian Radical Party, which historically has challenged the church.

Bloomberg offered this background detail explaining the prime minister’s announcement.

Following a complaint by the Radical Party, European Union regulators opened a probe in 2010 into Italian tax breaks on real estate granted to the Catholic Church, saying they may distort competition.

The outcome of the investigation will be made public by next month and if the decision goes against Italy, the EU could order the country to pay a fine and to demand that the church reimburse the government for unpaid taxes of the last five years, the secretary of the Radical Party, Mario Staderini, said in an interview in Rome on Dec. 21.

Does this tell the full story? Reading the Bloomberg report by itself one would miss some key issues and perhaps draw some false conclusions. The Radical Party’s request for EU intervention arose from its belief that the state’s policy of not taxing church property was anti-competitive. It gave the church an unfair advantage by reducing its costs and allowing it to undercut its commercial competitors — or serves as a form of state subsidy to the church.

The Italian press agrees the church should pay property taxes on commercial real estate — which is somewhat extraordinary. The great fun of the Italian press is that it offers a Rorschach test of the Italian psyche. All of the newspapers are working from the same inkblot, but they see different things emerging from the darkness.

The moderate middle is pleased the Catholic Church is paying its fair share. It also hopes this announcement will silence the perpetually aggrieved anti-Catholic left. A front page article entitled “Ici, svolta sui benne della Chiesa” in La Stampa, (the Turin-based newspaper has the largest circulation in Italy and is center-right in its politics) stated the Church:

is responding cautiously in courtly style .. while the antiecclesiastica (anti-clericalists) are satisfied even though the measure will not be complete as many had hoped.

However La Stampa notes that some of the criticisms and claims from the left are simplistic as there is no one entity known as the church that owns property.

Arriving at a revenue figure from church owned properties is a very complex task. The properties are owned by a galaxy of legal entities different, ranging from dioceses to congregations, religious orders to the Italian property of the Vatican itself.

Writing about this controversy in January before the prime minister’s announcement, the Guardian took a different line, likening the tax exemption to tax avoidance. What do you think of this opening?

It has long been regarded as more of a national sport than a misdemeanour. And it has long benefited from the seemingly boundless indulgence of the Italian Roman Catholic church.

But now the head of the Italian bishops’ conference, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, has unambiguously declared that “evading taxes is a sin”. He called for “serious, effective and relentless” action against tax dodgers.

The cardinal’s remarks are a boost to the technocratic government of Mario Monti, which is running a high-profile drive to root out evasion as it struggles to eliminate Italy’s budget deficit and start paying back the country’s €1.9tn (£1.6tn) public debt.

Among those often accused of avoidance, if not evasion, is the church itself. Its premises are exempt from property tax.

This is comically bad and plays into national stereotypes. Those eye-ties are all crooks at heart, the Guardian tells us.

Avvenire, the newspaper owned by the Italian Catholic Bishops Conference (CEI), notes that many newspapers seem to have missed the point that this new law applies to all non-profits — not just the Catholic Church.

… it should be remembered for the umpteenth time, this category [tax exempt institutions] is not identical with the Catholic Church, it includes properties of faiths who have registered with the the state and extends to all non-profit entities. Without this necessary clarification (that often the media tends to “forget” as happened yesterday), they will want to read the full official statement …

With regard to exemption from local property reserved for all non-commercial entities the Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance, Mario Monti, told the European Commission Vice President, Joaquin Almunia, that it intends to present to Parliament an amendment to further clarify and define the question.

Avvenire argued the “real news” from the prime minister’s announcement was that the government was going to introduce a:

mechanism tied to strict guidelines established by the Minister of Economy and Finance to the identify the proportional relationship between commercial and noncommercial activities performed within the same building.

The official line was offered by Msgr. Domenico Pompili.

We look for the exact wording of the text so that they can express a detailed opinion. … As has been stated several times, and most recently by the President of the CEI, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, any intervention aimed to introduce clarifications to the existing formulas will be received with the utmost care and responsibility.

One must also look to the reason for the exemptions, Msgr. Pomili said, adding we “hope the state takes into account the social value of the vast world of nonprofits.

So where is the problem? The Bloomberg story is correct, but the Catholic newspaper would say that it missed the point that not-for-profits in Italy are not the same thing as the Catholic Church — and that they are willing to pay their fair share. The Catholic argument that the church provides social services — and that was one of the reasons the tax exempt law was introduced twenty years ago — is also missing.

But these surface issues don’t speak to the question of the relationship between church and state. The European Union is intervening in Italy (at the request of one Italian political party) to re-order the relationship between the state and the Catholic Church. EU values and EU law trumps Italian values and Italian law.

What does this intervention mean for established churches — like the Church of England, the Church of Greece, the Church of Sweden et al? What does this mean for the individual believer when transnational entities have supremacy over the political aspects of his life in issues ranging from abortion, euthanasia, gay marriage, or immigration. How far can the EU go to press its agenda on individual states?

And then there is the question of idealism in reporting. Should newspapers concern themselves with the happenings of people very far away debating issues of which we know nothing? Is knowledge of the wider world a form of Orientalism — as defined by Edward Said — where we safe at home can view the doings of the other with detached amusement? Or are there universal themes or norms played out in the world which are relevant to us — even if they take place in the back of the beyond? Or, as the Guardian might put it, what more could we expect from Italians and Catholics?

What say you GetReligion readers?

Basilica of St. Peter photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

First printed in Get Religion.

Council of Europe assemby calls for ban on euthansia: The Church of England Newspaper, February 3, 2012, p 7. February 10, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Church of England Newspaper, EU.
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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has called for its member states to ban euthanasia.

On 25 January 2012 the Strasbourg-based assembly adopted resolution 1859/2012 entitled “Protecting human rights and dignity by taking into account previously expressed wishes of patients” to establish principles governing living wills and advance directives in Europe.

A living will or advance directives is a legal document endorsed by an individual when they are of sound mind that sets out their wishes relating to a medical intervention or treatments, should they not be able to express their wishes at the time of the intervention.

In debating the measure, MPs argued that living wills had been abused in some cases to permit euthanasia.  PACE adopted a series of guidelines to govern the crafting of the documents and adopted the resolution stating: “Euthanasia, in the sense of the intentional killing by act or omission of a dependent human being for his or her alleged benefit, must always be prohibited.”

The Assembly also recommended “that the Committee of Ministers [the 47 national ambassadors in Strasbourg] bring the Resolution to the attention of member states, with a request for implementation.”

While PACE has no authority to bind member states, including the U.K., its decisions guide the deliberations of the European Court of Human Rights, which is scheduled to review the case of Koch v. Germany, where the court will review Germany’s ban on assisted suicide. In 2011 the ECHR ruled in Haas v. Switzerland that the European Convention of Human Rights did not create a right to suicide.  In light of last week’s resolution, the court will be asked to decide whether suicide and euthanasia is a violation per se of the right to life guaranteed by the European Convention of Human Rights.

Dr Grégor Puppinck, Director of the European Centre for Law and Justice – a pro-life pressure group – stated “this resolution is a clear indication that the growing majority of Europeans is opposed to euthanasia.”

The “many abuses” occurring in states such as Holland which permit euthanasia are “alarming and constitute violations of true human rights,” he claimed.

Dr. Puppinck urged those European States that have legalized euthanasia to conform their laws to the “principles set forth by the PACE.”

Anti-Christian hate crime conference convened: The Church of England Newspaper, Sept 16, 2011 p 7. September 19, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, EU, Persecution.
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Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk addresses the opening session of an OSCE meeting on combating hate crimes against Christians, Rome, 12 September 2011. (OSCE/Jens Eschenbaecher)

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Europe must do more to combat hate crimes against Christians, delegates told a Sept 12 human rights conference in Rome organized by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

Hate crimes created a “climate of fear and suspicion” which had the “potential to create insecurity within and between communities, and instability both within and between OSCE States, the director of the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), Janez Lenarčič told the meeting.

“Hate crimes are a security issue, and may contribute to de-stabilising regional or even inter-state relations,” he said.

It was “indisputable that hate crimes against Christians occur in the OSCE region,” the director told the gathering of approximately 150 representatives of the OSCE’s 56 participating States, religious communities and non-governmental organizations.

According to information collected by ODIHR for its annual hate crimes report, there have been cases of desecration of places of worship, arson and other property damage, and attacks on worshippers and religious leaders.

“Such attacks instill fear, not just in the individuals they target directly, but also in the wider community, particularly where the Christian community in question belongs to a minority,” said Ambassador Lenarčič.

To be considered a hate crime, an act must have two components, he said.  “There must be a criminal act targeting individuals or property,” and the “target of the offence, whether victim or property, is selected by the perpetrator who is guided by a bias motive and because of a real or perceived connection to a group – in this case, a religious group.”

Evaldas Ignatavičius, Lithuania’s Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, said constant attention is required to build religious acceptance and combat the corrosive spread of hate and discrimination against religious practices and beliefs.

“It requires an ongoing process of open reflection, improved education at all levels and public awareness building and legislative action if we are to stamp out this most insidious form of human rights violation,” he added

Among the speakers at the meeting were Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, and Massimo Introvigne, Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office on combating intolerance and discrimination against Christians and members of other religions.

The agenda for the gathering stated its purpose was “to provide a platform for experts and practitioners to discuss hate-motivated crimes and incidents against Christians in the OSCE area, in addition to sharing best practices in the area of prevention and response.”

School crucifix ban overturned by Human Rights Court: The Church of England Newspaper, March 25, 2011 p 7 March 29, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, EU, Popular Culture.
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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The European Court of Human Rights has held that the display of crucifixes in Italian state schools is permitted under the European Convention on Human Rights.

In a decision published on March 18 by the court’s Grand Chamber, the seventeen judges voted 15-2 that there had been “no violation of Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 (right to education) to the European Convention on Human Rights” by displaying crucifixes in state schools.

The protocol requires state schools to “respect the right of parents to ensure” that the “education and teaching” of their children is “in conformity with their own religions and philosophical convictions.

The ruling overturns a November 2009 decision of a seven judge panel of the same court, which said the presence of a crucifix in the classroom violated a non-Catholic’s right to a secular education.  The 2009 decision held that crucifixes violated the right to education protocol and violated the Lautsi childrens’ “freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.”

Court Registrar Erik Fribergh stated the court found “nothing to suggest that the authorities were intolerant of pupils who believed in other religions, were non-believers or who held non-religious philosophical convictions.”

Nor was any actual harm shown to have occurred, the registrar noted: “The applicants had not asserted that the presence of the crucifix in classrooms had encouraged the development of teaching practices with a proselytising tendency.”

“While the crucifix was above all a religious symbol,” wrote the registrar, “there was no evidence before the Court that the display of such a symbol on classroom walls might have an influence on pupils.”

In a March 19 statement released by the Vatican Information Service, Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi SJ said the court’s decision was “received with satisfaction by the Holy See.”

“It is, in fact, a significant and historic sentence,” he said, noting the ruling held “the culture and rights of man should not be placed in contradiction with the religious foundations of European civilisation, to which Christianity has made an essential contribution.”

“It is furthermore recognised that, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, each country should be guaranteed a margin of appreciation with regard to the value of religious symbols within its cultural history and national identity, and in terms of the places in which they are displayed,” Fr. Lombardi said.

The March 18 decision held the “display of the crucifix is not a form of indoctrination, but rather an expression of the cultural and religious identity of countries with a Christian tradition,” the Vatican spokesman said, adding the European Court of Human Rights had regained the “trust” of a “large number of Europeans, convinced of the vital role played by Christian values in their history, and in the construction of European unity and its culture of rights and freedom”.

Church leaders chide EU over its failure to condemn persecution: The Church of England Newspaper, Feb 24 2011 February 24, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, EU, Persecution.
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Baroness Ashton

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

European church leaders, including the Bishop of Guildford, have condemned the EU’s weak stance on the persecution of Christians and have called upon the EU’s Foreign Ministers to make a firm statement condemning violence and promoting religious liberty.

A communiqué issued by a joint meeting of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) and the Roman Catholic Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE) held from Feb 17-20 in Belgrade stated “religious freedom is a right and a value that every democratic society should be open to promoting and safeguarding.”

“In this spirit the members of the joint committee chose to draft and send a letter to Baroness Catherine Ashton, high representative for foreign affairs and security policy of the European Union, asking that the issue of protection of religious freedom and Christian people in the world is tabled at the meeting of foreign ministers of the European Union” on Feb 21.

At their Jan 31 meeting, the EU Foreign Ministers were unable to adopt a joint declaration condemning religious persecution.  AFP reported a split arose after the UK and the Nordic countries objected to mentioning the persecution of Christians in fear that it would offend Muslim sensitivities.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told reporters the proposed statement “didn’t include any mention of Christians, as if we were talking of something else, so I asked the text to be withdrawn.”  Poland and France joined Italy in rejecting the “secularist position,” the AFP reported.

The CEC-CCEE bishops’ statement condemned the EU’s pusillanimity, saying the “reference to the persecution of Christians” must not be “forgotten or buried by abstract and fruitless policies.”

“Western countries where specific relations with areas where persecution exists should show their concrete commitment in protecting all those who are persecuted due to their faith, whichever that faith may be,” said the statement endorsed by the leaders of the two groups, including CEC vice-chairman Bishop Christopher Hill of Guildford.

However, the statement released this week at the close of the EU foreign minister’s Feb 21 meeting stated “the Council expresses its profound concern about the increasing number of acts of religious intolerance and discrimination … against Christians and their places of worship, Muslim pilgrims and other religious communities, which it firmly condemns.”

“Freedom of religion or belief is a universal human right which needs to be protected everywhere and for everyone,” the EU said and it was the “primary duty of States to protect their citizens, including persons belonging to religious minorities, as well as all people living in their jurisdiction, and safeguard their rights.”

Commissioners to lobby for extension of VAT relief scheme: CEN 3.05.10 p 6. March 15, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, EU.
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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Church Commissioners will ask the Government to extend the “Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme” providing for VAT relief for churches beyond its March 31, 2011 expiration date, Second Church Estates Commissioner Sir Stuart Bell told Parliament last week.

Whether the Government is able to act, however, is unclear as a Feb 11 ruling by the European Court of Justice limits the ability of national governments to interpret or modify the EU VAT directives.

On Feb 26, the member for the Vale of York, Miss Anne McIntosh (pictured, Cons.) the shadow minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs asked Sir Stuart “what recent representations the Church Commissioners have received on the effects of the scheme which rebates Value Added Tax payable on repairs for listed places of worship”.

Sir Stuart responded that General Synod had “made a clear statement that this extremely welcome scheme, which had by the end of Jan 2010 paid out over £101 million across the UK but is due to end on March 31, 2011, should be extended”.

On Feb 11, General Synod endorsed the motion “Repair of Church Buildings” (GS 1768) which called on the Government to “substantially increase” funding for the repair of listed church buildings and to “give an early commitment to continuing beyond March 2011 the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme”.

The scheme had made a “huge difference” to parishes, he said, “which are currently spending over £110 million on repairs”.

Sir Stuart noted that “as no provision has been agreed within the EU to allow for the reduction of VAT for repairs to listed places of worship, the Church is campaigning, in partnership with other denominations and faiths, to persuade the Government to ensure the continuation of this scheme”.

The Government’s ability to interpret EU Directive 2006/112/EC governing VAT rates was limited last week, however, by the European Court of Justice. In a Feb 11 opinion handed down in European Commission v France (C-492/08), Advocate General Nilo Jääskinen held that France’s interpretation of the EU VAT directive must give way to that of the European Commission.

Under the French Tax Code, a 5.5 per cent VAT rate was applied to services provided by lawyers who were compensated through the state legal aid programme. French government policy held that these services were covered under Article 98 of the VAT directive which permitted a reduced VAT rate for the supply of goods and services provided for charitable services. Reduced fee legal services for the poor, the French government held, was a form of charitable activity.

However, the European Commission rejected France’s interpretation of the VAT directive and brought suit in 2008. The European Court of Justice rejected France’s arguments, holding that while legal aid was a charitable service, lawyers could not be considered charitable entities under the code.

The ruling serves to make the European Court of Justice and the European Commission the final arbiter of tax policy, not national governments, legal analysts note. In order to continue the Listed Grant Scheme, the British Government must either convince the EU to endorse the proposal, or fund it out of government revenues.

Archbishop speaks out for sheep farmers: CEN 11.27.09 p 4. December 7, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, EU, Farming, House of Lords.
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The Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu has urged the government to support sheep farmers facing financial ruin through the imposition of EU regulations requiring every sheep in Britain to be fitted with an electronic tag (EID).

Speaking in Parliament on Nov 4, Dr. Sentamu asked the government how it intended to support sheep farmers following the implementation of the tagging regulations in 2010, “given the current inaccuracies in tag reading equipment.”

In 2007 EU regulators mandated that by 2010 every sheep and goat in Europe be fitted with an EID device to monitor its movement. The costs of the programme to British farmers is estimated at £42 million annually, with each tag costing approximately £1.50 per sheep and monitors costing £5000 per farmer. Britain is home to over 40

On Oct 27, Jim Fitzpatrick, Minister for Food, Farming and Environment at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said the government had “no plans to fund any equipment or software required for compliance with electronic sheep tagging regulations (EID).”

The National Farmers Union has protested the introduction of the regulations, warning it would bankrupt small farmers. “These regulations make no sense and have the potential to decimate the sheep industry,” NFU livestock board chairman Alistair Mackintosh warned, and the “additional costs involved, coupled with the recording requirements, will force many producers out of business while having absolutely no cost benefit.”

In response to Dr. Sentamu’s question, Lord Davies, the Labour Party’s Deputy Chief Whip in the House of Lords said the government was “aware of concerns” about EID working properly, and did not “think that it is reasonable to penalise a keeper in these circumstances.” The government would not penalise farmers “when incomplete data are provided by a central point recording centre.”

Dr. Sentuma thanked the minister for his assurances that “a failure of equipment will not result in penalties through single farm payments. If it did, it would not be good for those farmers’ well-being or health. If tagging equipment fails on prisoners, those who use that equipment are never penalised in their pay, so why should the farmers be?”

Conservative peer Lord Vinson acknowledged the Government “have done their best to stop this unnecessary, expensive and crazy EU regulation,” and asked if this were not an example of a “triumph of EU bureaucracy over our democracy and an example of the democratic deficit that lies at the heart of the EU experiment, which will surely lead to its downfall?”

Lord Davies responded the regulation had been “imposed against the will of the British Government,” but the regulations had arisen in the wake of the 2001 foot and mouth disease epidemic.

But help was on the way as “we are on the brink of major negotiations regarding reform of the [Common Agricultural Policy], and, whatever their view of the European Community, I doubt whether there is a single noble Lord who does not agree that the CAP needs reformation—if I can use that word in this context. We are looking towards reform of the CAP that would give a better deal to these farmers.”

Euro block on VAT cut: CEN 1.02.09 p 4. January 6, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, EU.
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Britain’s treaty obligations with the European Union prevent the Treasury from reducing the VAT rate on church repairs, the Second Church Estates Commissioner told Parliament on Dec 11. The government could not act on its own to reduce VAT on building repairs for churches as “we need the consent of all other member states,” Sir Stuart Bell said.

The statement came in response to questions from Anne McIntosh, MP (Vale of York) (Cons.) on giving to churches and VAT. Total giving to the Church of England in 2006 was “nearly £537 million, including £70 million of reclaimed gift aid,” Sir Stuart said, while cash collections in churches totaled £56 million.

The average donation to the Church of England is £8.64 a week, or £450 a year, he said, “but that is more than double the amount given by the average adult in the UK to all the other charities they support, so the Church clearly benefits from that dedication.”

In Nov 2000 Gordon Brown told the House of Commons that he was planning to reduce the level of Value Added Tax on Church repairs from 17.5 per cent to five per cent in response to lobbying by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. George Carey and Bishop of London, Dr. Richard Chartres—a move that would have saved the Church of England about £20 million a year.

After the European Commission rejected the rate cut, in 2001 Mr. Brown offered a “Church Repairs Grant” on repairs to “listed buildings used as places of worship,” compensating listed cathedrals, churches, chapels, mosques and temples for more than two thirds of their 17.5 per cent VAT bill on repairs—effectively reducing the VAT rate to five per cent.

In his budget speech on 17 March, 2004, the Chancellor proposed permitting listed “churches and sacred places” the ability to reclaim the full VAT “wiping out their liability in full.” However, modern buildings were not covered by the grant.

Under pressure from Britain, in July the European Commission issued a proposal that would allow the government to reduce VAT to five per cent on “the renovation, repair, alteration, maintenance and cleaning of housing and of places of worship and of cultural heritage and historical monuments recognised by the Member State concerned.”

The changes would take place by 2010 and would apply to all buildings—raising the effective VAT rate from zero to five percent for listed buildings, and lowering the rate for unlisted buildings from 17.5 to five percent.

Acknowledging “the principle” that the Prime Minister “is minded to lower VAT” in certain instances, Miss McIntosh asked if the “hon. Gentleman join me in renewing our campaign to obtain a reduced VAT rate on church repairs.”

Sir Stuart responded that “we have a reduction in VAT through a method introduced by the Prime Minister when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer.” However, he held out the possibility that the Church Repair Grants might not be withdrawn. “That is still available and it has no time limit,” he said.

Caribbean leaders urged to reject EU treaty: CEN 9.8.08 September 8, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of the West Indies, EU.
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Church leaders in the Caribbean have urged regional governments to reject the Economic Partnership Agreement proposed by the European Union, saying the terms of the treaty would harm the economy, marginalize the poor, and undermine the Caribbean’s democratic institutions.

Writing to the heads of the CARICOM [Caribbean Community] governments last month, the Caribbean Conference of Churches (CCC) said the proposed treaty was flawed. “A substantial body of credible evidence now exists that calls into question not only specific aspects of the content of the CARIFORUM – EC Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), but also critical omissions there from.”

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Caribbean leaders urged to reject EU treaty

Minister says religion will remain important: CEN 6.13.08 p 5. June 17, 2008

Posted by geoconger in British Foreign Policy, Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, EU, Politics.
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RELIGION will continue to play an important part as an agent for progressive social change in the “post-modern, model state,” the British Minister for Europe Jim Murphy told a Foreign Office seminar on ‘Faith in Europe’ last week.

“We need to acknowledge the communitarian vigour of religious life,” Jim Murphy, the member for East Renfrewshire, (Lab.) said on June 2 at Lancaster House, and “celebrate it, because community is another European value.”

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Religion 'important for future of Europe'

EU says religious groups can help in climate change campaign: CEN 5.09.08 p 9. May 10, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Environment, EU, Multiculturalism, Persecution, Russian Orthodox.
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Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper

Religion must play its part in combating climate change, EU political leaders told a gathering of European religious leaders on May 5. However, Russian delegates used the one-day conference in Brussels to urge the EU to direct its political energies towards supporting oppressed Christians around the world.

Twenty Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders—including the Bishop of Hulme, the Rt. Rev. Steven Lowe met with the Presidents of the European Council, European Commission and European Parliament in the fourth annual meeting of EU officials and religions leaders.

European Council President Janez Janša, the Prime Minister of Slovenia, told the delegates the environment was “not only natural but also a sacred place.”

“Community and loyalty between man, nature and the Creator is a basic principle of Judaism, Christianity and Islam alike,” he said. “Climate change requires us to rethink how we channel imagination, ingenuity and entrepreneurship into creating a world, free of dependence on fossil fuels, and yet prosperous and connected as never before.”

EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso added that climate change “obliges all of us to take urgent action,” and that “thanks to their outreach and role in our societies, religions and communities of belief are well placed to make a valuable contribution in mobilizing” against climate change.

Noting that 2008 was the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue, European Parliament President Hans-Gert Pöttering asked faith leaders to take the lead in “building bridges between people and to safeguarding peace based on mutual respect.”

“Intercultural dialogue” he argued, was an “important contribution” to a common EU foreign policy “in particular in the Mediterranean region”.

However the Russian Orthodox delegate, Bishop Hilarion of Vienna and Austria said the EU’s notions of intercultural dialogue placed Christians at a disadvantage.

“Tolerance should not cause detriment to Christians, who still make up the majority of the European population. Phobia and discrimination of Christians should be condemned officially,” he said.

Bishop Hilarion called upon the EU to protect Europe’s Christian heritage, citing Muslim predations against Orthodox Christians in Kosovo and Cyprus. Turkey should not become part of Europe, he argued while it continues to “disregard the needs of its Christian population.”

The Russian Orthodox Church called upon the EU to “do more for the protection of Christians outside Europe, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and many other Islamic countries,” Bishop Hilarion said, according to a statement released through the Interfax news agency.

Turkey told to return ancient church: CEN 5.7.08 May 7, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, EU, Roman Catholic Church, Turkey.
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ROMAN CATHOLIC leaders will support mosque building in Germany, if the Turkish government returns the Church of St Paul in Tarsus to church control and permits the construction of a pilgrimage centre.

Writing in his diocesan newspaper, the Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Joachim Meisner, said he had written to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urging his government return the church, built on the site of St Paul’s birthplace, as a gesture of European cooperation.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper’s Religious Intelligence section.

Turkey told to return ancient church

Greek religious oaths under threat: CEN 5.01.08 May 1, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Civil Rights, EU, Free Speech, Greek Orthodox, Persecution, Politics.
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Religious oaths administered by the state in legal or civil proceedings may violate Article 9 (Freedom of Religion) of the European Convention of Human Rights, an EU court has held.

In a Feb 21 ruling, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg held that a Greek law requiring a lawyer to swear an oath to conform to the law before he was admitted to practice, or to make a statement of conscience if he were an atheist or if his principles forbad him to make an oath, was unlawful.

“The fact that the applicant had to reveal to the court that he was not an Orthodox Christian interfered with his freedom not to have to manifest his religious beliefs,” the court ruled in the case of Alexandridis vs. Greece (application number 19516/2006).

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper’s Religious Intelligence section.

Greek religious oaths under threat

Turkey moves to relax headscarf ban: CEN 2.07.08 February 7, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, EU, Islam, Politics, Turkey.
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THE TURKISH parliament has given its preliminary approval to a government-backed constitutional amendment that would allow women university students to wear Islamic headscarves in classes.

Lawmakers from the ruling Islamist AK Party along with an opposition nationalist party backed the amendment that would repeal a 1989 headscarf ban for students in higher education. The vote was 401-110. Turkish lawmakers early Thursday voted to approve a constitutional amendment to allow female students to enter universities wearing Islamic headscarves.

Foreign Minister Ali Babacan (pictured)

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Turkey moves to relax headscarf ban

Church appoints its man in Brussels: CEN 1.25.08 p 5. January 27, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, EU.
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The Church of England has appointed its first representative to the European Union. The Rev Dr Gary Wilton, the current head of the postgraduate programme in Theology and Religious Studies at York St John University will take up the Brussels-based post in April.

Dr. Wilton will report to the House of Bishops’ Europe Panel and will promote the Church of England’s interests in European social, political and environmental issues among the EU institutions. He will also serve as a staffer with the Conference of European Churches (CEC)’s Church and Society Commission and has been appointed a canon of the pro-cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity in Brussels.

Since 2005 Dr. Wilton has been a member of the Theology Department at York St John University. Ordained deacon in 1988 and priest in 1989 in the Diocese of Bath and Wells, he served as Diocesan Director of Studies and then Associate Principal at the Church Army’s Wilson Carlile College from 1998-2005.

“The creation of this new post marks a significant development in the Church of England’s relationship with the European Union,” Dr. Wilton said. The Church of England has “important things to say about how we should develop community, how we should relate to the wider world and how we should care for the planet,” he added.

The chairman of the House of Bishops’ Europe Panel, the Rt. Rev. Christopher Herbert of St. Albans welcomed the appointment, and noted that the Church of England “must continue to increase its role in Europe in partnership with other churches so that together we can play our part in helping to shape the Europe of the future.”

EU ‘not to blame for Britain’s woes,’ says Archbishop: CEN 12.16.07 December 17, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Archbishop of York, British Foreign Policy, Church of England Newspaper, EU, House of Lords.
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Don’t blame the EU for Britain’s troubles, the Archbishop of York told the House of Lords on Dec 5.

“May we please stop blaming the EU for all our ills?” Dr. John Sentamu said during a debate on the European Council meeting in Lisbon. “We are responsible for our economic policy, education, health, security and international affairs. If those policies are not working out, please do not look over the border and blame others; what we are not doing is our own fault, because we are responsible here.”

“I call it BSE-always blaming someone else, instead of taking responsibility for ourselves,” he said.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Patriarch’s Gay Rebuke: CEN 10.12.07 p 6. October 12, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England Newspaper, EU, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Russian Orthodox.
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alexy-ii-in-strasbourg.jpgHomosexuality is a mental disorder the Patriarch of Moscow told the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg, France on Oct 2. Speaking to the issue of “gay pride” parades, Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and all Russia restated his church’s opposition to the marches, saying they were “propaganda and advertisement of sin.”

(Novosti photo)

Alexy’s comments on the homosexual condition come in sharp distinction to comments made by the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams at last month’s meeting of the American House of Bishops.

The Russian Patriarch stated Christians “love sinners despite their sins” but noted homosexuality was an illness—a position rejected by Dr. Williams.

In a 50-minute speech and question and answer session, Alexy backed the Russian government’s stance on the Balkans, opposing an independent Kosovo and denouncing attacks upon Serbian churches and cultural sights in ethnic Albanian hands. “We cannot silently stand by when those monuments are being destroyed” he said.

The bulk of the Patriarch’s speech, however, spoke to the threat to Europe’s Christian values through secularism and an antinomian view of human rights. European culture had witnessed a “break between human rights and morality, and this break threatens the European civilization.”

He reiterated the Russian Orthodox Church’s call for an alliance of traditionalist European Christians to reject the “new generation of rights that contradict morality” and are used to “justify immoral behavior.”

Questioned by British Lib-Dem council member David Russell-Johnston about the Russian Church’s opposition to gay pride parades, Alexy said his Church viewed the parades as an advertisement for sin.

Homosexuality was an “illness” and a “distortion of the human personality like kleptomania,” he said. “Nobody must try to force me or my brothers and sisters in faith to be silent and [to prevent us from] using the word sin for something that is called sin in God’s Word,” the patriarch said.

Lord Russell-Johnston said later the analogy of homosexuality and kleptomania was “ridiculous.”

During his press conference at the US House of Bishops meeting in New Orleans on Sept 21, Dr. Williams rejected suggestions homosexuality was an illness.

Asked his views upon healing ministries for those with homosexual orientations, Dr. Williams said, that “presupposes that homosexuality is a disease. Healing is available to any human being by the grace of God, but in order for that healing to be effective we need a clear diagnosis of what that matter is.”

“I do not assume that homosexual orientation is a disease,” he said.

The 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10(3) which called for a listening to the “experience of homosexual persons” also affirmed the Church’s belief in the healing of homosexuals through “God’s transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships.”

Racist crimes are on the rise: CEN 9.07.07 p 8. September 7, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, EU, Immigration, Multiculturalism.
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Incidents of racially and religiously motivated crime have risen sharply across Europe, an EU report on Racism and Xenophobia said last week, with the latest figures showing a rise of 6.7 percent in England and Wales, and 11.3 percent in Scotland.

“Racist violence and crime remain a serious social ill across Europe”, the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency said in its Aug 27 report, which analyzed discrimination in employment, housing and education across the 27 Member States.

The full extent of the problem remains unknown, however, as only two countries, the UK and Finland report comprehensive crime statistics in accordance with the EU’s Racial Equality Directive. Only 11 of the 27 countries collect data on racial and religious crime. Of these, the UK, Germany, Denmark, France, Slovakia, France and Ireland reported a rise and Austria, Sweden and the Czech Republic showed a decrease in race crimes.

The EU report said national data from most countries “remains unsatisfactory,” and noted that the definition of race crime differed from country to country. In 2006 Greece, Spain, Italy, Cyprus and Portugal reported no racist crimes; ten states provided “limited” statistics, while ten were identified as providing “good” data.

“As a stark illustration of the difference in awareness and the variation in data collection policies, the UK collected more reports of racist crime in a 12 month period than the other 26 Member States combined,” the EU report said.

Britain’s definition of racial and religious crime also differed from other EU Countries. In the wake of the Lawrence inquiry the definition of a “racist incident” is based upon the “victim’s initial interpretation of an incident centre-stage” rather than upon police investigation or reporting, the EU report said.

Between April 2004 and March 2005, 57,902 racist incidents were reported to the police, of which 37,028 were officially recorded. Last year the Crown Prosecution Service received 7,430 cases and prosecuted 6,123 racially motivated crimes and 41 religiously motivated offences.

Unemployment among immigrants and minorities remains significantly higher than for the majority population, the report concluded, while discrimination over housing continues to be one of the main sources of complaints to anti-discrimination authorities.

The EU findings track conclusions reached by General Synod’s 15-member Committee for Minority and Ethnic Anglican Concerns (CMEAC) which concluded the Church of England remained institutionally racist.

CMEAC’s report, Present and Participating – A Place at the Table, acknowledged that while some dioceses had sought to address the problems, the Church’s current structures still alienated many black and Asian people.

Last month the Archbishop of York told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation he believed the Church of England was “institutionally racist.” Dr. Sentamu said the Church had no racist policies in effect, “but to say there is institutional racism within the church, yes, that much I’ll accept.”

He likened the climate of the Church of England to a smoke filled room. “You could go into a room when people have been smoking and there isn’t anybody you can see in sight who’s smoking, and you know there has been smoking. That’s what I call institutional racism: you know there are some behaviors that are unacceptable, but you can’t quite pinpoint anybody who’s done it,” he said.

State Aid Investigation Riles Roman Catholics in Italy and Spain: CEN 9.07.07 September 7, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, EU, Property Litigation, Roman Catholic Church.
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EU competition regulators are looking into complaints that the Spanish and Italian government’s tax treatment of the Roman Catholic Church violates EU state aid rules.

A spokesman for the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition told The Church of England Newspaper the EU had forwarded requests for assistance to Madrid and Rome.

However, “these are simply requests for information prompted by complaints,” EU spokesman Jonathan Todd said. “There is no investigation as such. It is in the light of the information received that the Commission will decide whether investigations are necessary.”

Todd stated the inquiries concerned “preferential tax regimes for income from real estate belonging to the Catholic Church,” and that “any possible future investigation would be limited to tax advantages for the Catholic Church’s commercial activities.”

The Commission, the European Union’s executive arm and top competition regulator, is responsible for policing state aid in the 27-nation bloc to see whether it threatens fair competition.

If an investigation finds that state aid is illegal, the Commission can require a member state to recover the money from the beneficiary.

Italian Justice Minister Clemente Mastella told Italian newspapers he was concerned over the ramifications of the investigation, while conservative politicians accused leftists of using the EU to further their anti-clerical agenda.

Leftist politicians in Italy have long denounced the Church’s tax breaks. Under Italian law buildings without an exclusively commercial use can be exempted from property taxes, saving the Church an estimated 2.25 billion euros in taxes each year.

The European Communion treaty generally prohibits state aid, which is defined by the Competition Commission as “an advantage in any form whatsoever conferred on a selective basis to undertakings by national public authorities.”

While some national exemptions have been granted for “a number of policy objectives for which State aid can be considered compatible,” the EU has been standardizing its competition rules, putting pressure on government tax benefits for European churches.

“Someone wants to sling mud at the Church in making believe that it enjoys privileges,” the Secretary-General of the Italian Roman Catholic Bishops Conference, Msgr Giuseppe Betori said on Aug 31.

“We feel attacked, and we can’t understand why the Church is not perceived as performing a service to society. We are shocked,” he told AFP.

EU Urged to Keep its Promise on MDGs: CEN 8.17.07 p 5. August 18, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Church of England Newspaper, Development/Economics/Govt Finances, EU, NGOs.
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THE PRIMATE of Southern Africa has called upon the European Union to live up to its promises of support for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane also urged Africa to honour its commitment to tackle poverty and called upon the continent’s political leaders to make good their pledges of support for the poorest of the poor.

Chairman of the African Monitor, an NGO that monitors relief and development work across Africa, Archbishop Ndungane told SABC, “African countries have said they want to designate 15 per cent of their budgets to health and 10 per cent for agriculture and they are falling short of these targets.”

EU urged to honour MDG commitment

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper

Bishop calls for fidelity to the Commonwealth over the EU: CEN 7.27.07 p6. July 26, 2007

Posted by geoconger in British Foreign Policy, Church of England Newspaper, Development/Economics/Govt Finances, EU, House of Lords.
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The Bishop of Norwich has urged the government not to abandon its obligations to the Commonwealth by subordinating British trade policy to the EU.

Speaking during a Lords debate on the Commonwealth on July 18, Bishop Graham James argued EU trade negotiations with the developing nations of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP) were skewed in favor of the West.

“I know well that the teaching in the Sermon on the Mount is that the poor are blessed, but we do not increase their blessing by making them poorer,” he said. Keeping a “high doctrine of the Commonwealth” could prevent impoverishing its members during the current round of trade talks.

Harkening to the 1926 Imperial Conference which stated the Commonwealth countries were those “autonomous communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs,” Bishop James stated this was the “spirit” which continued to animate the Commonwealth.

“It is an extraordinary ideal to live up to, one that is not exactly easy when member states vary so much in economic power, resources and wealth,” he said.

Current trade negotiations between the EU and the ACP countries threatened the economic integrity of some Commonwealth nations. “Many Commonwealth countries” believe the will be “worse off”, he said and “fear” that “EU aid will be dangled as a carrot and waved as a stick if African countries, in particular, do not open up their markets to European companies in the area of service provision and government procurement.”

“How does our part in this EU process reflect our Commonwealth aspiration[s],” Bishop James asked the government.

Last month the Anglican Church of Kenya called upon its government to reject an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the EU and Kenya, saying free trade with Europe would not be fair trade.

“Trade should be at the service of people and not for profit,” the Kenyan church said.

“Hence trade policies should enhance people’s livelihoods through the protection of human rights. It is for this reason that we the church representatives affirm the principles of justice, equity and protection of human rights. These principles should guide any trade policy making and agreements,” they said.


No More EU Powers: CEN 6.22.07 p 5. June 22, 2007

Posted by geoconger in British Foreign Policy, Church of England Newspaper, EU, House of Lords.
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The Bishop of Chester has cautioned against ceding further legislative authority to an autocratic and unaccountable bureaucracy in Brussels.

“We need an EU which recognises the limits to its own political, social and legislative competence to shape too many details in the lives of its citizens,” Dr. Peter Foster said in the June 14 Lords debate on the European Union and Britain.

The Lords debate comes one week before the June 21-22 EU summit in Brussels where. EU president Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, has pushed for reconsideration of an EU constitution. However last week Merkel told the German parliament objections by Poland, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic made an agreement unlikely.


Lord Howe of Aberavon, the former Conservative cabinet minister, argued against Britain holding a referendum on an EU constitution during the Lords debate, saying if Britain wanted to play a leading role in Europe the government must “compromise”.

“That would be as true for a Conservative government as it will be now for a Labour government. And if it is to be considered by a Conservative opposition that intends to be in government, then they need to recognise the case for compromise is just as strong.” Lord Howe said.


Lord Triesman, the junior Foreign Office minister, said: “If there were a fundamental change, and it was a constitution that was fundamental, it will be put to the British people.”


The Bishop of Chester reminded the Lords the Christian political theory held that good government was limited government. Citing Augustine’ City of God, Dr. Forster stated “all human structures and institutions are at best incomplete and point to a different and better future in God’s time.”


The belief in the “relativity of all political systems” promoted the “values of tolerance and openness to others which perhaps are the key European values in our heritage. Good government always has to recognise the limits of its governance,” he said.

Kenyan Church in EU Rejection: CEN 6.01.07 p 7 May 31, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Kenya, Church of England Newspaper, Development/Economics/Govt Finances, EU.
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The Anglican Church of Kenya has called upon its government to reject an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the EU and Kenya, saying free trade with Europe would not be fair trade.

Representatives of Kenya’s Anglican, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Reformed, Independent and Pentecostal churches urged the government to rethink the trade treaties brokered under the 2000 Contonou Partnership between the EU and the less developed nations of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific.


“EPAs have turned out to be free trade agreements, which can have a detrimental effect on the Kenyan economy,” the Churches warned. Free Trade with the EU would undercut Kenya’s exports to other African nations, and would “undermine our government’s national development plans” by weakening Kenya agriculture.


Over 77 percent of Kenya’s work force is employed in agriculture, the churches said. The removal of price controls and trade barriers would devastate Kenyan farming, which would “be under serious threats from the subsidised products of the EU.”


Government tax revenues would also be threatened by the removal of import tariffs on EU goods, as well as reduced tariff collections on domestic agricultural production.


The churches urged the Kenyan government to study the social and economic consequences of an EU free trade agreement, and its potential impact upon Kenyan society.


“Trade should be at the service of people and not for profit. Hence trade policies should enhance people’s livelihoods through the protection of human rights. It is for this reason that we the church representatives affirm the principles of justice, equity and protection of human rights. These principles should guide any trade policy making and agreements,” they said.