Even Catholics who would never be so crude as to say “the Abbey belongs to us, not to you” sensed that history was being re-balanced in some way. They realised that the Pope had as much right to sit in that sanctuary as the Archbishop of Canterbury who, to be fair, showed the Holy Father a degree of respect that implied that he, at least, recognises the spiritual primacy of the See of Peter even if he rejects some of its teachings.
In a strange mix of religion and technology, the Times is reporting on the Anglican parish of St. Lawrence Jewry in London holding a public “blessing of the smartphones.” Apparently picking up on the medieval “Plough Monday” tradition of blessing agricultural equipment, the Rev. Canon David Parrott allowed iPhones, BlackBerrys and laptops to be place on the altar for a special blessing.
This was Church 2.0. Behind him, the altar resembled a counter at PC World. Upon it, laid out like holy relics, were four smart phones, one Apple laptop and one Dell…
…Then, after another hymn, came the blessing of the smart phones. The Lord Mayor of London offered his BlackBerry to Canon Parrott, which was received with due reverence and placed upon the altar.
Then the congregation held their phones in the air, and Canon Parrott addressed the Almighty. “By your blessing, may these phones and computers, symbols of all the technology and communication in our daily lives, be a reminder to us that you are a God who communicates with us and who speaks by your Word. Amen.”
Despite my affinity for both Church and tech, I find all of this a bit bizarre.
For the first time since the Protestant Reformation hit the British Isles, Catholics are on the verge of becoming the majority religion among Britons. This according to The London Times (and echoed by CWN). A combination of immigration from Catholic countries and a steady decline within the Anglican church has led to this distinction.
An interesting note in the article is that the influx of Catholics has been overwhelming in certain areas. With average Sunday mass attendance up to one million people, the Times describes the situation as both the church’s biggest threat and biggest opportunity. According to the article, the surge of workers from countries like Poland (~95% Catholic) has caused some parishes, especially in London, to offer masses from 8 A.M. to 8 P.M.
The interesting question is what is happening amongst the actual British people. Once a proud society centered around Christian religious life has slowly faded toward atheism. The Anglican Church seems to be gasping for air along with its sister chruches around the world in the Anglican Communion. Catholicism still seems to be a four-letter word considering to this day an English king or queen can neither be Catholic or marry one.
On top of all this is the issue that all of Europe faces, how long before Islam takes over? A challenge that could change the face of Europe is going virtually ignored in religious circles. Thank God for Pope Benedict XVI. Whether or not Catholics, Anglicans, protestants, and evangelicals understand it, Benedict is out in front, putting his life on the line to defend Christianity in relation to Islam. Catholic and non-Catholic alike should applaud and respect him for this.