Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 23 October 2014

Stand up for faith, says peer Warsi

Baroness Warsi will give a speech at the Vatican

Religion must be given a greater role in public life to push back a wave of "intolerant secularisation", a Cabinet minister will argue during an official visit to the Vatican.

Baroness Warsi, a Muslim, will call for Europe to become "more confident in its Christianity" in a strident defence of faith, backed by Prime Minister David Cameron.

The peer is leading a high-level two-day delegation of seven British ministers to the Holy See, including three of her Cabinet colleagues, which has been granted an audience with Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday.

In the first speech to staff and students of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy by an outside minister, she will compare the intolerance of religion with totalitarian regimes.

"In order to encourage social harmony, people need to feel stronger in their religious identities, more confident in their beliefs. In practice this means individuals not diluting their faiths and nations not denying their religious heritages," she will say.

"If you take this thought to its conclusion then the idea you're left with is this: Europe needs to become more confident in its Christianity."

Speaking amid continued fallout over the High Court ruling that prayers cannot be a formal part of local council meetings, she said it was a myth that to protect minorities "we need to erase our religious heritage".

Christian roots "shine through our politics, our public life, our culture, our economics, our language and our architecture", she will argue. "You cannot and should not extract these Christian foundations from the evolution of our nations any more than you can or should erase the spires from our landscapes."

Quoting the Bible, she will praise the role of the Catholic Church in toppling communism, securing peace in Northern Ireland and responding to natural disasters across the world.

The Pope had been right to warn, in a speech in Westminster Hall during his state visit to the UK last year, against an increasing marginalisation of religion, she will say.

The visit has been arranged to mark the 30th anniversary of the establishment of full diplomatic relations between the UK and the Holy See. Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore and Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson will also attend, along with International Development Minister Alan Duncan, Energy Minister Greg Barker and Foreign Office Minister Lord Howell of Guildford.

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