Cardinal Vincent Nichols has highlighted the important role education has in providing integration for religious minorities.
Addressing guests at the Benedict XVI Lecture, held at Archbishop’s House, Westminster, Cardinal Nichols recalled the centuries of exclusion experienced by the Catholic community in Britain, before outlining how the structures of Catholic life were re-established in 1850.
“Since that time our journey as a religious minority, I think, has been remarkable,” he said.
“We’ve met hostility and friendship. It’s needed patience, courage, flexibility in both public and private; the ability to work through differences and find accommodations while staying faithful to our central beliefs and teachings.”
He described education as being “at the heart of this journey for the Catholic community”. He explained that the newly appointed bishops of the Catholic Church met in 1852 and decided that, before any Catholic church was to be built, a school was to be established.
“The school, said the bishops, would form and support the living stones of the Church so in our story education holds a central place and I believe it will do so for a long time into the future.”
Cardinal Nichols pointed out that education continues to be a field in which dialogue can take place, while also noting that other fields, such as our common response to poverty and social exclusion, are still important. “In our task of integration, knowing that in Britain today we have a truly respectful pluralist society, sound and lasting education is an important pathway.”
The cardinal made his comments during the Benedict XVI Memorial Lecture, which commemorates and celebrates the spirit of Pope Emeritus Benedict’s meeting with members of other religions that took place during his visit to the UK in 2010.
Held in partnership with St Mary’s University, Twickenham, where the original meeting took place, the initiative aims to keep alive and develop that spirit.
This year, the lecture explored the theme of Living as a Creative Minority in the UK and included presentations from Cardinal Nichols, the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and Islamic scholar, Maulana Sayed Ali Raza Rizvi.
Maulana Sayed Ali Raza Rizvi, recently president of the European Council of Scholars, addressed those in attendance by explaining how religious minorities need to contribute to communities and integrate within them.
“Our faith in God demands from us to contribute not only just to people of faith but also the people who do not have any faith.
“We have responsibility towards everyone,” he said, adding that Islam is all about “respecting and caring for others”.
Meanwhile, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis outlined the highs and lows the Jewish community had suffered, including the persecution of Jews “to the degree that, in 1290, we were banished from this soil, not considered worthy enough to tread our feet upon British land”.
He explained that to be the ‘other’ entails responsibility. “Minorities are responsible to maintain their own traditions, to be proud of their background, loyal to their faiths and at the same time to be proud members of their countries.”
Picture caption: Cardinal Nichols at the Benedict XVI Lecture, flanked by the Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis and Islamic scholar Sayed Ali Raza Rizvi
Photo: Mazur/ www.catholicnews.org.uk