Brexit and the Feast of St Peter’s Chair

Yesterday a Facebook friend asked what seems to me a pertinent question: as well as asking what a potential exit from the European Union might mean for Britian, shouldn’t we also ask what it might mean for the other countries of Europe? In other words, although we shall probably spend the next four months listening to arguments for and against continuing membership of the E.U., those arguments will, almost entirely, focus on the presumed benefits to Britain. Can we argue like that any more? Given the Scottish Nationalist Party’s emphatic preference for remaining in the E.U., can we even assume a coherent understanding of ‘British interests’?

The present cathedra of St Peter, enthroned in Bellini’s magnificent bronze structure, was the gift of Charles the Bald, the grandson of Charlemagne and himself Holy Roman Emperor. The feast itself pre-dates the gift and, while always having been seen as a feast of unity, is nevertheless not without controversy, the feast of St Peter’s Chair at Rome having been celebrated on 18 January, and the feast of St Peter’s Chair at Antioch having been celebrated on 22 February. Today we have but the one feast. Without trying to push the analogy too far, I think there is something there we can usefully ponder. I love my country but I am aware of belonging to something larger than the nation state. We no longer identify Europe with Christendom, but, as a Catholic, I certainly feel the pull of that older, larger world in which a common Latin culture both united and transcended individual kingdoms and principalities; and, just as in Charles the Bald’s day, when he and his brother, John, faced a Saracen threat, we are conscious of the threat posed by Wahabist violence to much that we hold dear.

The Brexit question is not a purely political or economic question. At its heart is a much deeper and more difficult question: how do we understand the world in which we live and our place in it? For those of us who pray, I suggest we have a lot of praying to do as well as thinking.


4 thoughts on “Brexit and the Feast of St Peter’s Chair”

  1. So is the deeper question about how we see our identity or is it about our fears? Politicians can be very skilled on playing on people’s fears, whether those are fears of the vulnerability of independence or the fears of belonging to something greater which somehow controls us. My fear is that in the next 4 months there will be too much of ‘what is best for Britain – what is best for us/me. Yes, much prayer as well as thinking is needed. We are all naturally selfish and find it hard to see the bigger picture.

  2. Thanks for some insight.

    Being British, I prefer our future to be in our hands, but not estranged from the rest of the world. I’m reminded of the policy of Isolationism that was operated by the USA before WW1 and between the Wars, which end the end proved to be futile as they couldn’t shrug their shoulders and avoid a Global war on both occasions.

    We need to be in mutual engagement with other nations, although, my preferred mechanism is a much more proactive and supported United Nations, where respect for individual nations should include mutual respect for each other, and mutual protection for each other – not against each other.

    And the Global religions, whether Christianity or other need to feature in this. Whoever takes the lead, needs to bear in mind that the ‘greater good’ is something to aspire too, perhaps starting with preserving creation.

  3. As Pope Francis also commented some time ago: “A good Catholic doesn’t meddle in politics.’ That’s not true. That is not a good path. A good Catholic meddles in politics, offering the best of himself – so that those who govern can govern. But what is the best that we can offer to those who govern? Prayer!”

  4. Without entering into the pros and cons what worries me is the possible result where Wales, Scotland and NI vote to stay in and England votes to leave – where will that leave us? What will happen to our United Kingdom?

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