What Have the Romans Ever Done For Us?

A fascinating couple of stories in today’s Times on religion

Roman Catholicism is set to become the dominant religion in Britain for the first time since the Reformation because of massive migration from Catholic countries across the world.

Catholic parishes will swell by hundreds of thousands over the next few years after managing years of decline, according to a new report, as both legal and illegal migrants enter the country

Many of the new Catholic church-goers in the UK are Polish according to the sub story.

Monsignor Tadeusz Kukla, in charge of pastoring Polish Roman Catholics living in England and Wales, estimates that the number of Poles in London has doubled since Poland’s accession to the EU in 2004 to 600,000. Most of these arrived last year, and thousands more are arriving each month.

The Edelman Trust Barometer this year measured the comparative level of trust in Business, Government, Media, NGOs and for the first time, religious institutions.

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As you can see, Polish opinion formers, and I guess the wider Polish public, are much more trusting of religious institutions (44%) than Brits (27%), so the local established ‘brand’ would appear to be under some threat and not just from the new Catholics. Another interesting fact; churches in the UK (presumably mainly Anglican) are
now closing faster than mosques are opening.

The role and comparative influence of religious institutions in the UK and Europe is in considerable flux at the moment and this will increasingly be a story as well as a shaping force of stories. Faith, ethics, morality and belief are more often part of national debates, even in what we assumed in the past to be secular and religiously cynical countries like Britain. The impact of Islam and immigration are obviously driving much of this, but perhaps also there is an increasing desire for a more spiritual dimension to the debate on many issues (gambling, stem cells and animal testing for example). And in this, Europe seems to be moving more towards the US model where this has been the case for a number of years.

The contrasting religious story that caught my eye was the one about Eric Idle’s plans to make a stage show derived from the movie the Life of Brian. ‘He’s not the Messiah (he’s a very naughty boy)’, looks set to follow in the successful footsteps of Spamalot, which was based of course on the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

The story reminds us:

The original Life of Brian was condemned as blasphemous on its release in 1979, prompting some local councils to ban it. Chapman played Brian Cohen, a young man born in a stable next to Jesus Christ who then lives in obscurity for 33 years before being mistaken for the Messiah and eventually crucified.

The Pythons have always maintained that it was a satire on organised religion, rather than a direct attack on Christianity.

So cynicism has not entirely ceased to be.

[tags]Roman Catholicism, religion, immigration, Monty Python[/tags]

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