There has been a rush of predominantly shocked and negative comments last week on the decision of the Greek Prime Minister, George Papandreou, to offer the people of Greece a referendum on the bailout deal agreed within the Eurozone for them. Backed by his cabinet, Papandreou had said that the ‘referendum will be a clear mandate and a clear message in and outside Greece on our European course and participation in the euro’ – but the reaction not just on the financial markets but also in the larger countries of the Eurozone has been overwhelmingly critical. The tone of these has suggested that, since Greece clearly needs help, it should be obliged to quickly and clearly accept the deal agreed at an earlier summit – sayings about ‘beggars’ and ‘choosing’ spring to mind.
It is easy to see how these comments arise: especially in some northern European countries there is a feeling among the population that there is a danger of rewarding irresponsible behaviour by the ‘Mediterranean’ members of the Euro-zone in helping them with money earned elsewhere under much stricter economic rules and practices. ‘These people’, it was said by some, ‘do not work as hard or as long as we do, they retire early and under conditions that they and their nations have not and cannot pay for – and we end up paying for it all now.’
For me, one particular comment on one of the television programmes stood out, however, and made me think: the news showed images of the civil unrest and violence in Athens, with police and protesters battling it out brutally with long batons (police) and what looked like heavy sticks or branches of trees (protesters) in the midst of chaotic running about on both sides. And the commentator suggested that it had been scenes like this that prompted Papandreou’s decision: that he saw signs of his country and society tearing itself apart unless and until the Greek people as a whole democratically ‘owned’ the harsh austerity measures needed by means of a referendum, until they felt not just victims of other people’s decisions and the pressure exercised by other nations, but able to shape their own future and responsible for the direction their nation and society would take.
Put this way, the measure does make a lot of sense to me, because it is not just, as one commentator put it, a case of ‘democracy versus the Eurozone’ (with democracy, for the moment, set to triumph in Greece) but much more broadly one of seeing that financial and market interests and human dignity, while sharing a lot of ground, are not simply the same thing: it is man who is made in the image of God and given the dignity of freedom to choose and do the good, not ‘the markets’. One could say that what the Archbishop of Canterbury, citing (according to the BBC) ideas put forward by the Vatican for creating ethical regulation of financial markets, called for in his recent Financial Times article is not that dissimilar – a reminder that our freedom and our dignity are too precious to give away ‘for a dish of meat’.
- Please continue to hold Dean Jeremy Winston in your prayers as he prepares to begin treatment.
- Please note that next Sunday’s Parish Eucharist at St Mary’s will start at 10.50am, to enable the two-minute silence to take place at 11am.
- The Christmas Draw is the major fundraising event of the year and we need your help to sell raffle tickets in Abergavenny Market. There is a list at the back of St Mary’s—please do put your name down if you can help. Tickets available now; if everyone took and sold 10 books we would be well on our way to the target.
- The Cards for Good Causes shop in the Lewis Chapel of St Mary’s is now open for business. We are still in need of help to run this shop, which provides a valuable service and which also benefits the church financially. If you can help staff the shop, please put your name on the rota in St Mary’s or contact Beverley Jones on 850375 or 07775 566948.
- The Abergavenny Deanery Mothers Union Fellowship Lunch takes place on Thursday, November 17, 12 for 12.30pm. Tickets £10, available from Glenyss Holland. Proceeds to the MU Overseas Workers Project. Non-members very welcome. The guest speaker will be Tithe Barn Manager, Richard Morgan, who will talk on his charity trek in the Himalayas earlier this year.
- If you have taken part in the Talents 2011 enterprise, it would be much appreciated if any monies raised could be returned to the church next Sunday. Please hand your envelope to Clive Jones or churchwardens—and many thanks for your endeavours.
- Ladies Fellowship meets on Tuesday at 7.30pm in the Priory Centre. Come and make a greeting card with demonstrator Margaret Dodd—please bring a small pair of scissors.
- Please note that there is now a new e-mail address for the office in the Vicarage: firstname.lastname@example.org