Christians are facing growing hostility from secularism and should do more to stand up for themselves, says the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales.
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor says Christians should remember that their values are of central importance to society and they shouldn’t “give in to pessimism”.
Dr Murphy-O’Connor was speaking ahead of his forthcoming retirement. He said the Church “has a perspective and a wisdom which society cannot afford to exclude or silence.”
He continued: “The greatest danger for us at the moment is to let ourselves believe what secular culture wants us to believe about ourselves, namely, that we are becoming less and less influential and in decline.”
“There are certainly challenges and there is much work to do. But on the contrary I believe that the Church has a vigorous life, and a crucial role to play in our society – more important than at any other time in our recent history,” he asserts.
He said Christians should have “the right not just to exist, but to express what we deeply believe is important for the common good”.
He added: “We do not seek to impose our views on others but to offer them as a way – that we believe is the way – for life to flourish.”
The Cardinal also underlined the church’s crucial role in speaking out about the economy and upholding the importance of marriage and family.
Much of his message echoed recent warnings from the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu who said there cannot be a separation of faith and work.
Speaking at Holy Trinity Brompton church in London earlier this month, Dr Sentamu said: “There is no more urgent time than now to break down the compartmentalised thinking that separates trust in God from the world of work.”
His comments came in the wake of a number of recent cases where Christians have faced problems at work over their beliefs.
Christian nurse Caroline Petrie was suspended after she offered to pray for a patient. Her employers said she had shown a lack of commitment to the promotion of ‘equality and diversity’ required by nursing guidelines.
Mrs Petrie has now been reinstated. However, there are fears that teachers could face similar problems as new draft teaching guidelines have included the same ‘equality and diversity’ wording.
A Christian foster carer was struck off because she allowed a Muslim child in her care to convert to Christianity. She is seeking to be re-instated and is prepared to go to court if necessary.
A Brighton care home for elderly Christians had thousands of pounds of funding withdrawn because of its religious beliefs on homosexuality. The council has since backed down and restored the funding after the care home announced its intention to take legal action.
School receptionist Jennie Cain faces an investigation for misconduct after a prayer email fell into the hands of the headmaster at the school. She had asked friends to pray after her five-year-old daughter was told off by a teacher for talking about her faith with another pupil.
The Archbishop of York said Mrs Cain’s case and that of Christian nurse Caroline Petrie represent a “seeming intolerance and illiberality about faith in God which is being reflected in the higher echelons of our public services”.
Dr Sentamu said: “Asking someone to leave their belief in God at the door of their workplace is akin to asking them to remove their skin colour before coming into the office. Faith in God is not an add-on or optional extra.”