Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Can the Pope save Greyfriars?

The peculiar green copper upside-down ice-cream cone that sits atop Greyfriars in east Oxford is not among the best known or best loved of the city's dreaming spires.

And for much of the past 50 years, since it was given the status of a permanent private hall in the university, Greyfriars has been regarded as a sleepy Catholic backwater, with part-time fellows tutoring a dozen or so undergraduates each year, under the auspices of the Capuchin Franciscan religious order

But over the past few months, Greyfriars has become the talk of the university. An almighty row has engulfed it and now threatens to involve the Pope.

The Capuchins' out-of-the-blue announcement of plans to close Greyfriars within months has put them at loggerheads with staff and students who believe the private hall remains viable. They want it to continue under lay management.

But it is the Capuchins' apparent refusal even to discuss any such compromise that has caused most astonishment in Catholic circles, with Dr Donal Lowry, fellow in history at Greyfriars, accusing the order of being on an "ideological mission to disentangle themselves, as quickly as possible and at whatever cost, from any involvement in what they see as an elitist university".

It all began quietly enough. In October last year, the Capuchins announced that they had neither the manpower nor the finances to continue running Greyfriars and wanted to end their educational mission in the city – an endeavour that dates back to the time of their founder, St Francis of Assisi, in the 13th century. There are just 42 friars left in the whole of the English "province" of the Franciscan order. So, with regret, the order said it was going to relinquish its prized university licence that allows it to operate Greyfriars as one of seven permanent private halls (PPH) at Oxford.

For its part, the university made all the right noises – though some suspected that after its own recent review of Greyfriars had described it as "struggling against the odds", the news may have come as something of a relief.

Arrangements were accordingly made to transfer existing Greyfriars students in the summer of 2008 to Regent's Park College, until recently a Baptist-run PPH, now officially an ecumenical establishment within Oxford University.

But then the fellows and lecturers at Greyfriars came forward, with student backing, with an offer to take on the running of the PPH.It would see the Capuchins remain as nominal trustees, but delegate all day-to-day management to a lay board. It is an arrangement common in many schools once run by religious orders.

A former warden of Greyfriars, Father Tom Weinandy, who belongs to the American, not the English province of the order, has indicated his willingness to return to Oxford to assume the chairmanship of this new governing body.

Pledges have even been obtained from alumni to cover the cost of re-establishing Greyfriars in new premises, leaving the Capuchins to do as they please with the existing buildings. Rumour has it that they plan to sell them.

So far, however, these seemingly reasonable suggestions have been rejected by the English Capuchins. Fellows and students accuse them of having acted in a less than transparent fashion.

Only weeks before making their announcement, the Friars had welcomed the chancellor of the university, Chris (Lord) Patten, to a garden party under the green spire to celebrate 50 years of Greyfriars' contribution of theology, history, English and law undergraduates to the university pool (with five firsts for the 13 students who sat finals in 2007).

The Catholic former Tory minister and other guests listened as plans to modernise and expand this flint-fronted outpost of learning on the Iffley Road were informally discussed. Greyfriars has already gone mixed and opened its doors to non-Catholics and some would like to see it run as, effectively, a mini Oxford college.

The monks, however, clearly had very different ideas and, by all accounts, had already taken their fateful decision to close Greyfriars. It was a verdict reached without any consultation with staff or students. "The first time I heard there was any threat to the future of Greyfriars," says Lowry, "was when the announcement of closure was made. They had gone completely behind our backs and betrayed us."

The Capuchins' subsequent reluctance since to sit down with staff and student representatives – most recently following the final governors' meeting of term – has caused bewilderment. "It would not advance matters," the Capuchins said of the most recent proposed meeting. Certainly not their preferred option, anyway.

The acting warden, Father Mark Elvins, politely declines all invitations to comment. "I am acting under monastic obedience," he tells me, "and cannot say anything about it." Meanwhile, Father James Boner, head of the English province, refers all requests on to a press spokesman, Barry Hudd. For his part, he insists there is nothing to discuss.

"The Capuchins have agreed to surrender their licence to the university and its terms are such that they cannot assign it to anyone else or any other form of management. The university has made that absolutely clear to us. And even if it were, it would still leave the Capuchins in the impossible position of having the final responsibility for Greyfriars but no part in its operation which is something, we have been told, that the charity commissioners would not countenance."

The university itself does not want to be drawn publicly into the row, but the campaigners hotly dispute Mr Hudd's claims. They point to arrangements that have been made, with university approval, to alter the management structure of other PPHs, including Regent's Park.

And Dr Penny Cookson, fellow in Latin at Greyfriars, reports a recent meeting with senior university figures. "They made it plain," she insists, "that they would happily consider our proposals regarding the licence if we had the backing of the Capuchins."

Once Trinity term ends at Oxford on 14 June, all possibility of mounting a rescue will, the protesters believe, be lost. And the Capuchins appear to be gritting their teeth and sitting it out, ignoring, in the process, increasingly urgent appeals for compromise from the local prelate, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham, the papal nuncio in London, Archbishop Faustino Munoz, Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Vatican's Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales. He has written to the Capuchins directly, urging them "to ensure the licence is retained".

"Saving Greyfriars is not some romantic idea," says Father Gareth Jones, one of the campaigners. "It is a serious-minded proposal by the fellows and lecturers to secure a future for an excellent academic institution now faced with imminent closure if the licence is surrendered by the Capuchins."

Father Jones is a canon lawyer, specialising in Catholicism's complex internal legal system. Because of its vows of poverty, he explains, the Capuchin order cannot, in theory, own anything, including a university licence on an Oxford hall. A strong case can be made, he argues, that the licence belongs to the Church and is therefore vested in the office of the Pope on behalf of the faithful. And so Father Jones is in Rome this week, hoping, via canon law, to persuade the Vatican, on behalf of the Pope, to intervene directly and force the Capuchins to reconsider.

In their present mood, it seems even a Vatican directive may not be enough to budge the Capuchins in the race against the clock to stop Greyfriars dying by default. Their refusal to engage in the rescue mission has left them with few friends in the Church. "At present," says Lowry, "they are acting rather like the Burmese junta."

It is a charge Barry Hudd robustly rejects as "totally untrue". The Capuchins, he says, "do not have any ideological or dogmatic agenda behind this decision. It is a purely practical decision they have been forced to make."
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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

With such dire communication skills it is no wonder the Capuchins are not attracting vocations.

Anonymous said...

What a pity Nichols did not concern himself over the closure of Plater College of which he was a trustee?

JASDEEP SINDHU said...

HELLO HUMAN BEINGS "LOVE BY THOUGHT , BY RELATION , BY IMAGINE , BY TALK , BY LOOK ,BY FEEL , BY TOUCH - ALL ARE THE LOVE OF PHYSICAL WORLD & HAS TIME TO END" IT IS KARAM - KANDA .THIS PHYSICAL LOVE CREATE NEW GENERATION TO CONTINUE THE TIME & PHYSICAL WORLD.IN THIS LOVE YOU HAVE TO NEED ANOTHER PHYSICAL PRESENCE .

"THE INTERNAL LOVE BY SOUL(ATMA OR COSMIC ENERGY) TO GOD( PARMATMA OR SUPEREM POWER) IS THE PUREST & HOLY PRINCIPLE OF LOVE" IT HAS NO TIME TO END . IT IS KARAM - YOGA .IN THIS LOVE YOU HAVE NO NEED OF ANOTHER PHYSICAL PRESENCE .THIS PRINCIPLE OF UNIVERSE & MATTER OF AFTER TIME .

" LOVE IS YOGA - LOVE MAKES ONE " WE CAN MAKE OURSELVES IN ONE BY SOUL(ATMA) WITH GOD(PARMATMA). THIS IS THE PRINCIPLE.
"WHEN WE MAKE OURSELVES ONE BY PHYSICALLY - WE MAKE NEW GENERATION TO CONTINUE TIME OF PHYSICAL WORLD "
"YOUR LIFE IS TIME "
"YOUR SOUL IS PRINCIPLE"
"A FRUIT - IF YOU DON'T EAT OR USE IN TIME IT WILL DESTROY .IT IS THE MATTER OF TIME LIKE YOUR PHYSICAL LIFE ."
"BUT SEED OF FRUIT WILL NOT DESTROY - IT BECOME A TREE OR PLANT TO CONTINUE .IT IS NOT THE MATTER OF TIME , IT IS THE PRINCIPLE OF SUPEREM POWER LIKE YOUR SOUL."

"MAN HAS SEED TO FEED IN WOMAN TO CREATE THE PHYSICAL WORLD" WOMAN FULFIL THE NEED & GROW UP THIS SEED , SO WOMAN DO EVERYTHING IN THIS WAY LIKE EARTH . SO EARTH IS CALLED MOTHER OF US . IN RELIGIOUS HISTORY "GOD" IS CALLED "SUPEREM FATHER."
WHEN A MAN STOP THE FLOW HIS OWN SIEMENS(SEED) TO CREATE NEW BIRTH OR ENJOY THEN HIS ENERGETIC POWER OF SIEMENS(SEED) ENLIGHT AS SOUL & THIS LIGHT(SOUL) RETURN TO IT’S SUPEREM CENTRAL GRATIVITY (SEPEREM PRINCIPLE )IN RADHASOAMI YOGA .IN THIS JOURNEY WHEN THIS ENERGY RETURNS TO IT’S PRINCIPLE – THIS PRODUCE A SOUND BY POWER OF SPEED BASED ON LOVE , THIS SOUND IS THE “WORD” .LIKE WHEN HIGH VOLTAGE OF CURRENT GOES INTO THE WIRES , IT ALSO PRODUCE A SOUND .SO LIKE THIS ALL HUMAN BEINGS OF THIS WORLD HAVE FEMALE FORM AS SOUL IN THIS UNIVERSAL PRINCIPLE & WE CAN SAY THIS FORM OF SOUL IS NATURE .IN UNIVERSAL PRINCIPLE WE CAN SAY THIS NATURE IS WOMAN .
IN THIS JOURNEY OF SOUL(COSMIC ENERGY ) TO GOD HAS 18 SPHEARES :-

1)6 OF PHYSICAL - ( MAN & WOMAN )
2)6 OF SUBTLE - (ATMA & PARMATAMA OR SOUL & IT’S SUPEREM FORM )
3) CAUSAL – RADHA + SOAMI = RADHASOAMI YOGA )
“ PERFECT UNIVERSAL YOGA OF LOVE FOR EVER & EVRYWHERE IN THIS UNLIMITED UNIVERSE “
YOU ALL ARE THE CONSCIOUS PRESENTATION OF GOD IF YOU WANT TO MEET & KNOW ABOUT GOD THEN PLZ ENLIGHTED YOUR ALIVE PART WHO NEVER DIES .YOUR PHYSICAL WORLD HAVE END BUT COSMIC ENRGY WILL ALIVE TILL UNIVERSE IF YOU ENLIGHTED YOUR INTERNAL CONSCIOUSNESS (SOUL) . REMEMBER LIGHT IS THE FASTEST SPEED IN THIS UNIVERSE IT IS THE ONLY WAY TO KNOW ABOUT PAST , PRESENT , FUTURE MEANS ABOUT TIME & AFTER THAT ALSO AFTER TIME WHICH IS THE MAIN CENTRAL GRATIVITY . THE ONLY YOUR CONSCIOUS ENERGY CAN CONTACT EVERYTHING IN THIS UNIVERSE YOUR PHYSICAL WORLD HAVE NO RANGE TO REACH THEM .WHEN YOU ENLIGHTED YOUR COSMIC ENERGY ( SOUL ) THEN YOU WILL FIND THAT YOUR ALIVE ENERGY IS THE PART OF UNIVERSAL ENRGY IS EVERY WHERE IN THIS UNIVERSE . THIS KIND OF CONTACT IS THE TRUE & HOLY LOVE OF GOD . WHICH NEVER DIES TILL UNIVERSE "
IT CAN BE START SLOWLY ONLY BY PRINCIPLE OF YOUR PHYSICAL TIME NOT CAN BE DONE BY LESS OR MORE TIME . SO YOU CAN CALL SURAT + SHABAD YOGA , RADHA+SOAMI YOGA .YOU CAN DO IT EASILY & SLOWLY BY ITS' OWN FORMATION IN TIME OR AFTER TIME OF UNIVERSAL PRINCIPLE SO YOU CAN ALSO CALL IT "SAHAJYOGA".

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" YOU ALL ARE CONSCIOUS PRESENTATION OF GOD " & YOUR CREATION OF PHYSICAL BEHAVIOUR (LOVE) BY ENERGY IS THE WORLD OF GENERATION IN TIME – WHEN THIS ENERGY RETURN INSIDE YOU & CHANGE INTO ABSOLUTE PERFECTION OF YOUR OWN INTERNAL ENERGY ( LOVE OF SOUL) TO UVIVERSAL ENERGY (SUPEREM SOUL) IS THE PRINCIPLE OF UNLIMITED UNIVERSE & UNLIMITED TIME ( NO TIME LIMIT OR AFTER TIME ) OF SUPEREM POWER . "

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“LIFE IS NOT A REHERSAL – IT IS THE FINAL STROKE “
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WHEN THE ALL MERITS OF HUMAN BEING IN THIS PHYSICAL WORLD GET IN ONE FORUM - THAT IS “LOVE” .
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“LOVE IS THE PRACTICAL BEHAVIOUR OF SOUL IS THE RELIGION “
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“TIME ZONE IS THE BUBLE OF UNIVERSAL CONSIOUSNESS .”

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“ YOUR LIFE IS YOUR TIME”



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ANY WORD OF ANY LANGUAGE OF THIS WORLD IF DO APART US FROM EACH OTHER IN ANY WAY ON THIS EARTH OR UNIVERSE CAN NOT BE RELIGION.
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GOD IS NOT A MATTER OF THOUGHT ,IMAGINATION , TALK , WRITING HOLY BOOK , HOLY PLACES , STATUE , VISION ,DREAM ,PHOTO ,SYMBOL ,DISCUSSION,HISTORY & TIME (PAST – PRESENT – FUTURE ). THESE CAN BE MILE STONES TO UNDERSTAND ABOUT SUPEREM POWER (GOD).

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Key Message : Be a magnet unto thyself. God resides in the heart of every one. Love and self-giving to nature and surroundings is the gate to enter.

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PLZ VISIT TO KNOW MORE www.radhasoamitaradham.com