Continuing from where we left off with this week's Sunday on Radio 4....
Amen, brother. Amen.
Next up came one of the programme's regular discussions of Vatican matters. Ed Stourton talked to liberal papal historian Michael Walsh about the Pope's excommunication of part of the Mafia and about his sacking of several cardinals overseeing the Vatican Bank. I was struck yet again by how differently Ed asks questions about Pope Francis to how he asked questions about Pope Benedict. He's turned from a sniffy critic (of the last pope) into an adoring groupie (of this present pope). Gone are the disapproving, slightly sneering questions which seemed to invite his guest to lay into Benedict XVI and in their place came questions like this which seem to invited his guests to sing hosannas to Francis:
"He's certainly got a gift for putting a couple of sentences in his addresses that catches the headlines?""But it's quite something, isn't it?""You make the point that it's a long-running saga and he's been on about this more or less since he was elected. This latest act does suggest a sort of steely determination to sort this kind of thing out.""The picture that's emerging of his is of somebody...who is in administrative terms very experienced, very determined, very clear-thinking".
That, I suppose, is what you'd have to call 'bias'.
Sunday, as so often, then stuck with Catholic matters [it doesn't have the reputation for being a liberal Catholic programme, an on-air version of The Tablet for nothing] and moved onto what the website blurb describes accordingly:
It's 50 years since permanent deacons were allowed to be ordained in the Catholic Church. Kevin Bocquet reports on what the diaconate has brought to the Church at a time when vocations to the priesthood are falling.
This was mooted by Ed as a triumph of his beloved Vatican II. Kevin Bocquet then reported from Biddulph in North Staffordshire, talking to the deacons of the Church of the English Martyrs there.
Deacons officiate at weddings, baptisms and funerals, visit hospitals and prisons, and offer spiritual guidance, but they don't say mass and they don't hear confessions. They aren't paid. And they are allowed to marry. ["Bishop, you'll forgive me, but that begs the obvious question: If it's so good for deacons to be married, why can't we have married clergy?", asked Kevin].
Next up was another old Sunday favourite - women bishops. As the programme's blurb put it:
...we look at the psychology of change with Professor Marilyn Davidson from Manchester Business School.
Well, that was a different angle!
Finally, it was back to Iraq and an interview with Canon Andrew White, the Vicar of Baghdad. He said that many Iraqi Christians living in Baghdad left the city because it was too dangerous. They went to Mosul instead. Now Mosul is in ISIS' hands. Over 2,000 have now left Mosul. Only Kurdistan is now seen as a safe haven. He said that ISIS is out for the destruction of all Christians, even though Christians have been in Iraq longer than Muslims. The remaining Jewish community, mostly living in Baghdad, is living in fear and are having to keep their identity "very, very closed". Canon Andrew says he acts like this rabbi to that community, "living on a knife-edge there". Other minorities living in fear are the Mandeans, an ancient sect that follows John the Baptist, and the Yazidis, a sect close to Zoroastrianism.
Canon Andrew White is a remarkable man with an unenviable job. Good luck to him.