Wrote Daily Telegraph blogger Damian Thompson at the time, having been told about the "disturbing event" that had "enormously upset devout Catholics" by a "furious priest":
"I'd never heard of this college before, but its website gives off an air of the grimmest political correctness.... The chapel is certainly used for the celebration of Mass, so it would indeed be outrageous if it were also used for the celebration of the birth of a man whom Christianity does not recognise as a prophet. (Don't get me started.) Can you imagine Muslims allowing a mosque or Muslim prayer room to be used for the celebration of the Eucharist?'Soon afterwards Thompson added:
'The Archbishop of Birmingham, Vincent Nichols, has defended the use of a Catholic university college chapel for an event marking the birthday of Mohammed. Unbelieveable, I know. But here it is:
In a statement issued today, Thursday 12 March, Peter Jennings, Press Secretary to the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Birmingham, and the Archdiocese of Birmingham, said: "The chapel at Newman University College, Birmingham, was properly prepared for this event which consisted of two talks and a discussion of an interfaith nature."
Mr Jennings added: "Christian/Muslim dialogue is an important part of the Catholic Church's agenda. College authorities were fully aware of what was taking place."
I'm baffled. Last night, I reported on this disturbing event, organised by the college's Islamic Society and sanctioned by its politically correct chaplaincy team. I know that priests in Birmingham archdiocese are outraged by what happened. Archbishop Nichols could so easily have distanced himself from this, but he hasn't. If, against the odds, he is named as the next Archbishop of Westminster, his failure to speak out now will haunt him....'
Well, that same year Vincent Nichols did become Archbishop of Westminster, spiritual leader of all of Britain's Roman Catholics.
And at Midnight Mass this Christmas he addressed his packed congregation on the need to put their faith into action.
"We are to be freshly attentive to the needs of those who, like Jesus himself, are displaced and in discomfort," he is reported as saying.
"We are to see more clearly all those things which disfigure our world, the presence of the sins of greed and arrogance, of self-centred ambition and manipulation of others, of the brutal lack of respect for human life in all its vulnerability....
[A] shadow falls particularly heavily on the town of Bethlehem tonight … We pray for them tonight."The Archbishop focused on the plight of 50 Palestinian families in Beit Jala whose homes lie on the route of the security fence. And in a related BBC interview that an evidently delighted Al Beeb showed ad infinitum on its "New 24" thoroughout the day, he amplified his views with talk of Israeli appropriation of "territory" that had been that of the Palestinians for "700 years" ...
More poisoning of the public mind against Israel, and all deftly accomplished on Christmas Day. (The Archbishop's Christmas gift to Al Beeb, as it were!)
Sympathy for those in distress is of course what we would expect from a Christian priest. But the Archbishop's remarks, as reported, suggest that he has little if any sympathy or understanding for the suffering and dilemma of Israelis, and why a security fence is required.
Hitherto, as far as I'm aware, Britain's Roman Catholics as a body have been conspicuous by their absence from Israel-demonising circles within the churches. In all probability that will now change, and many practising Roman Catholics will join the ranks of anti-Israel activists.
Whether the many immigrant Poles who have swelled the present day Roman Catholic community in Britain have inherited the antisemitism that within living memory characterised much of Poland's population, and will prove particularly receptive to the call to action, remains, of course, to be seen.