Henry VIII was the English King who, in 1534 broke from the Roman Catholic Church and, by the The Act of Supremacy, declared himself "the only Supreme Head in Earth of the Church of England," or, as it is better known, the Anglican Church. He took this act largely out of pique that the Pope would not grant him an annullment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, though it is likely that the chance to pad the Royal treasury with Church lands probably played no small role in the decision also. This set off a firestorm of events and violence that has reverberated through the centuries. Indeed, it is a measure of the lasting mortal enmity that developed out of this "English Reformation" that the English Bill of Rights of 1689, provided for those subjects "who are Protestants" to own weapons for their self defense (this is the precursor to our Second Amendment) and England's national holiday celbrates the torture and execution of Guy Fawkes, a papist who conspired with other Catholics to blow up Parliament in the Gunpowder Plot. And in a rather grisly reminder of that event, a book bound in the human skin of one of the plotters was recently auctioned in Britain. Update: Much more on the history associated with the English Reformation at Bookworm Room.
Yet you can call this week the revenge of the Pope. It has only taken about half a millenium. Just a few days ago, Britain's former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, converted to Roman Catholicism. And today, it has been revealed that the dominant Church in England is no longer the Anglican Church, but rather the Catholic Church. This from the Telegraph:
Britain has become a 'Catholic country'
. . . Roman Catholics have overtaken Anglicans as the country's dominant religious group. More people attend Mass every Sunday than worship with the Church of England, figures seen by The Sunday Telegraph show.
This means that the established Church has lost its place as the nation's most popular Christian denomination after more than four centuries of unrivalled influence following the Reformation.
Last night, leading figures gave warning that the Church of England could become a minority faith and that the findings should act as a wake-up call.
The statistics show that attendance at Anglican Sunday services has dropped by 20 per cent since 2000. A survey of 37,000 churches, to be published in the new year, shows the number of people going to Sunday Mass in England last year averaged 861,000, compared with 852,000 Anglicans worshipping.
The rise of Catholicism has been bolstered by an influx of immigrants from eastern Europe and Africa, who have packed the pews of Catholic parishes that had previously been dwindling.
. . . Worshipping habits have changed dramatically with a significant rise in attendance at mid-week services and at special occasions - the Church of England expects three million people to go to a parish church over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
In an attempt to combat the declining interest in traditional religion, the Anglican Church has launched radical new forms of evangelism that include nightclub chaplains, a floating church on a barge and internet congregations.
. . . The Rt Rev Crispian Hollis, the Bishop of Portsmouth, said that the Roman Church had been active in trying to win back lapsed worshippers, but conceded that mass immigration had been a significant factor in swelling its numbers.
. . . "We don't want to be seen to be scoring points over the Anglican Church as we are in no way jealous of its position as the national church, but of course these figures are encouraging. It shows that the Church is no longer seen as on the fringes of society, but in fact is now at the heart of British life." . . .
Read the entire article here.