COI Gazette – 3rd June 2016

Primate of Brazil speaks out in support of suspended President Rousseff

Suspended Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff

Suspended Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff

The Primate of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil,the Most Revd Francisco De Assis da Silva, has criticised the suspension of the country’s President Dilma Rousseff and the imposition of Vice-President Michel Temer pending Ms Rousseff’s impeachment trial.

The Primate also warned of a growing social movement to “reclaim” the country’s democracy.

Archbishop da Silva had previously criticised the impeachment process and earlier this month he described it as “a show of sad cynicism”.

Brazil’s Senate – the upper house of the National Congress of Brazil – voted on 12th May to accept the impeachment proceedings and suspend President Rousseff.

The BBC reported that Ms Rousseff was accused of violating fiscal laws by allegedly using funds from state banks to cover budget shortfalls, ahead of her re-election in October 2014, and juggling public funds to make her government’s economic performance appear better than it was, but that she denied any wrongdoing.

The Senate now has six months to decide whether to find her guilty, in which case Mr Temer will assume the role of President for the completion of the term. If she is found not guilty, she will be restored to office.


Editorial

FIGURES IN CHURCH HISTORY – 52 JONATHAN SWIFT (1667-1745)

Jonathan Swift, in his own inimitable way, was the greatest Dean St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, has ever had. Throughout his clerical career he was prompted by deeply felt convictions and tenacity of purpose. There is a sense of his presence in the cathedral, felt, probably, by all members of the clergy as they process in and out past his grave, and Stella’s, and are confronted – next to the door leading up to the Chapter Room – by his bust and the epitaph, written by himself, which may be translated as: “Here is laid the body of Jonathan Swift, Doctor of Divinity, dean of this Cathedral Church, where fierce indignation (saeve indignatio) can no longer rend the heart. Go, traveller, and imitate if you can this earnest and dedicated champion of liberty.”

There are other reminders of his time as Dean, not least a huge portrait in the Deanery and the (surprisingly small) pulpit from which he preached. One of the most memorable things that happened on his watch was the first performance ever of Handel’s Messiah on 13th April 1742, with members of the choirs of both St Patrick’s and Christ Church Cathedrals taking part.

It is important to emphasise Swift’s role as Dean because much biographical and other published material about him focuses on his other many and varied activities, including the political and the literary. He was, indeed, one of the giants of English prose writers and a formidable satirist.

Swift was born in Dublin, a short distance from the cathedral, in 1667 and, having lost his father before his birth, was dependent on the charity of relatives and their connections for his upbringing and education, which included attendance at Kilkenny College and Trinity College Dublin. He served, on and off, as secretary of
the eminent Sir William Temple in Surrey and it was there that he tutored Esther Johnston, whom he called ‘Stella’ and who became the love of his life. He had an ambiguous relationship with her until, to his great grief, she died. There were other apparently inconclusive relationships, especially that with Esther Vanhomrigh, whom he called ‘Vanessa’ and who also died at an early age.

While in the service of Sir William Temple, Swift moved in the highest political circles and became involved as a pamphleteer – initially as a Whig and later as a Tory – during the reign of Queen Anne. He helped forward the claims of the Irish clergy to the First-Fruits and Twentieths (‘Queen Anne’s bounty’), which was greatly to their advantage. He gained a reputation as a writer with such books as A Tale of a Tub and The Battle of the Books. Back in Dublin, he became passionately patriotic and his anonymous Drapier’s Letters, opposing a monopoly to provide the Irish with copper coinage, got him into trouble with the authorities who, however, were unable to secure enough evidence to proceed against him. Jonathan Swift’s most famous work is, of course, Gulliver’s Travels, an apparently simple tale which has in fact many political resonances.

An opponent of humbug and hypocrisy, especially of the official variety, Swift was personally of a most compassionate disposition and left a large sum of money to found the St Patrick’s Mental Hospital.

This editorial is one in a series of occasional reflections on figures in Church history, following a chronological sequence as they appear.


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Letter to the Editor

RCB and Church investment concerns

I WISH to express my thanks to the Gazette for the excellent coverage of the General Synod in Dún Laoghaire (20th May issue). Well done to all concerned!

Recently, after our evening Café Church, I was talking to some young people about General Synod. They wanted to know if the hierarchy of the Church of Ireland actually listen to ordinary people.

I was able to share my experience from the last two years. I assured them that the Executive of the Representative Church Body (RCB) actually do listen during debate and can respond when a strong moral argument is presented.

The moral argument to divest from fossil fuel companies was presented at last year’s General Synod. Afterwards, two dioceses passed motions calling on the RCB to divest from all fossil fuels within five years. The debates on the motions stressed the severe impact that greenhouse gas pollution and climate change are having on the world’s poor.

The RCB listened and responded. They divested from coal, increased investments in renewable energy and drafted a policy on climate change (http://bit.ly/CoIPCC).

However, the policy states that fossil fuel investments will continue to offer profits for many years to come and therefore the RCB will not divest more broadly. This is despite clear warnings from the United Nations and Christian charities that the impact on the poor from climate change will be catastrophic.

The Church of Ireland is continuing to invest in a polluting industry that is causing climate chaos, will create millions more refugees and kills seven million people a year from air pollution.

We need to raise our ambition and develop a plan for complete divestment from fossil fuels by 2020. This is an opportunity to take a lead, speak prophetically to society and call for change. I hope the RCB will reconsider its policy.

I told the young people mentioned earlier that the RCB does listen but, to be heard, we need to speak up. We need to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.

I hope more parishioners, young and old, will start to raise their voice – it will be heard.
Stephen Trew,  Lurgan BT66


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