The End of the Reformation in England?

Archbishop Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, hails it:

The outpouring of public grief over the death of Diana Princess of Wales marked the moment England returned to its Roman Catholic roots almost 500 years after the reformation, according to the leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

Acts such as showering the Princess’s hearse with flowers show that the public is reverting to a “Catholic” approach to death after centuries of protestant reserve, the Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols suggested.

He said that the Princess’s funeral in 1997 marked a watershed in British history and would be remembered as the “end of the Reformation in England”.

Catholic practices such as prayers for the souls of the dead and a belief in saints, which were dismissed by protestant reformers in the 16th Century, are now being rediscovered, he said.

The recent growth in unofficial roadside shrines commemorating people killed in accidents – often filled with flowers photographs and mementos – has also been widely interpreted as marking a change in the way the British respond to death.

Interviewed in a BBC documentary about shrines and other places of religious significance in Britain, the Archbishop said that English people were rediscovering their ancient Catholic “voice”.

“I remember vividly the cortege carrying the body of Princess Diana coming up the Edgware Road,” he said.

“The Edgware Road was crowded with people, and they were throwing flowers forward to catch them on the hearse as it went by.

“And somebody said to me ‘each of those flowers is a prayer for Diana’.

“The same man went on to say ‘I think this moment marks the end of the Reformation in England’.

“The English people are discovering again their voice: at the point of death we do pray for those who have died.

“And they are discovering again their vision of the future which is so vividly expressed in the lives of the saints.”

He added: “The Catholic understanding of saints is that they are alive in heaven and they are attentive to our efforts here, and help us with their prayers.

“So there’s – if you like – not just a memory of a relationship but a living relationship with saints.

“I think sometimes it is a misunderstanding that we worship saints.

“We don’t, we offer them our love and we ask for their prayers and we draw great strength from their example and their continuing presence as part of the living church.”

The Archbishop appears in “Pagans and Pilgrims: Britain’s Holiest Places” on BBC Four on Thursday.



10 thoughts on “The End of the Reformation in England?

  1. Would he be more accurate to describe the situation as the end of the Counter-Reformation, all across Europe including the UK? First, the Reformers got the liturgy and Bible in the vernacular, communion in both kinds, private ownership/reading of scripture. With the Ordinariates & Eastern Rites, they are getting married priests. And theoligially, RC-specific issues like purgatory, indulgences, pilgrimmages, relics, monastic vows, etc. are all but absent in the daily life of today’s average faithful. Even the rosary, novenas, scapulars, and other devotions are all but forgotten by the masses. Plus, the papacy isn’t the temporal juggernaut it was in the 16th century.. And the masses have rejected the pope’s teaching on artificial birth control, divorce, etc. Looks like the Reformation won?

    1. How wrong you are! So called “popular” devotions such as novenas, rosary etc.. are very much alive among faithful Catholics, and there has never been as many people going on pilgrimage: just think about Lourdes (city in Europe with the highest number of hotels), Guadalupe, Medjugorje…
      As to monasticism, well, it’s perhaps the only parts of the European church that is currently healthy: in my country, the Benedictines are founding new abbeys because those they already have are too small for the high number of postulants they have! The same is true for the Canon regulars and other traddy friendly orders.
      As to dogmas, well, the Church has never accepted private interpretation of the Scriptures. The fact that Catholics were forbidden to own a Bible is just a Protestant poppycock, think only about the Douai-Rheims Bible. And communion under both kind is a specifically American practice (deviation?) that I have never seen in any other country (save for Holy Thursday of course).
      As to artificial birth control etc… and all other moral issues, it seems its not Reformation that won the game, but the views of the pagan society we live in. Because those advocating contraception 50 years ago are now advocating gay marriage, a concept not particularly dear to confessing Protestants isn’t it?

      + pax et bonum

      1. D.H., Sociologists have been studying the serious decline of Christendom, including the RCC, in Europe for some time.. Just look at weekly liturgy attendance. I’m comparing 2013 to 1953 or 1913. Sadly, this includes places like Poland and Ireland, but there the significant declines have been visible in just the past 20 years or so. When I think of the RCC in England today, I thiink Tony Blair. Not Manning or Newman, or even Graham Greene. (Don’t forget, the D-R bible was from the Latin, not the original lanugages. Didn’t papal blessing of translating vernacular bibles from the original languages come in 1943? Given the ease of travel today and the far larger numbers of people alive compared to the past, when looking at pilgimmages one should look at percentages, not absolute numbers. And there used to be a lot more local ones that are now mostly gone or forgotten.)

      2. Indeed I agree with Michael, simply but very profoundly, modernism has become postmodernism, and the visible churches of Christ are sick and dying (both Protestant and Catholic)! It has been like a drum-roll… getting louder and louder, and more certain as the days go by! (Lk. 18: 7-8)

  2. The Reformation is only reversed when the papal supremacy is accepted. Popular sentiment is about as valid as the cry for Barrabas.

    1. Preaching the Gospel “kerygma” (message) as faithfully as I can! 😉

      “It pleased God,” says Paul, “through the folly/foolishness of what we preach to save those who believe.” (1 Cor. 1:21) And Salvation in Christ has three tenses: past, present & future, and all three are being manifest in the life of ‘the election of grace’!

      1. Fr. Robert, Just keep on preaching the Gospel as best you can. (I like to think the Gospel is more fully preached each time Rome sees the error of some of her idiosyncratic ways and ideas. But it takes time. They gave up the Latin Vulgate for the original lanugages in 1943. Was about 1999 for their joint statement on Justification with the LWF. The Syllabus of Errors is on the scrap heap of history. Limbo shut down by their recent catechism. Mandatory clerical celibacy likely to go in next century or so. One small step at a time? 🙂 )

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