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WESTMINSTER, England (ChurchMilitant.com) - The cardinal-archbishop of Westminster is blasting the "woke" rewriting of one of England's oldest carols after it was sung at a service in the parish of All Saints with Holy Trinity Church in Loughborough.
While the revised version sparked fury among Christians and secular-minded Britons, a leading LGBT campaigner, who was warmly welcomed by Pope Francis, hailed the cannibalization of the carol as "an utterly Spirit inspired set of words for our time!"
"I love the way this speaks into the pain that the Church has caused so many different groups and yet recognizes that God's love is so much bigger than it all," said Jayne Ozanne, who presented Francis with her autobiography, Just Love: A Journey of Self-Acceptance.
The new version distorts the original text of "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" to make it LGBT-friendly by adding the words "God rest you, queer and questioning, your anxious hearts be still. Believe that you are deeply known and part of God's good will."
It attacks the "patriarchal" original text by inserting the "feminist" verse, "God rest you also, women, who by men have been erased, through history ignored and scorned, defiled and displaced."
Responding to the controversy, Cdl. Vincent Nichols said that Christmas reminded us of the "importance of ritual," which "helps us to step outside of our own little bubble, connect with something that we have received, inherited, and that we hope to pass on."
"I think those values — of a continuation of musical repertoire, of the ability to sing together, of looking at the rituals that have been fashioned over centuries — for me, those are probably more important than particular sensitivities which come and go," Nichols stressed.
Nichols' intervention is unusual, given that the prelate rarely addresses controversial issues within the Church of England. The carol service was held at a historic Anglican parish in the county of Leicestershire.
The cardinal is also known to be openly supportive of the LGBT movement and earlier endorsed the "Soho gay Masses" organized by the LGBT Westminster Catholics Association. He even presided at a so-called LGBT Mass on May 10, 2015.
Last year, Nichols authorized an openly homosexual former Anglican priest, David Cherry, to be trained for the Catholic priesthood in his archdiocese, despite Vatican directives cautioning against ordaining homosexuals to the priesthood.
Deacon Nick Donnelly, a popular British author, said it was an "unexpected surprise to see Cdl. Nichols publicly defend the importance of Tradition and challenging woke culture, no matter how obliquely."
"This woke travesty of the traditional carol is a particularly egregious attack on Christianity due to it 'canceling' the salvific heart of the Good News — airbrushing out all mention of Christ as savior, who frees mankind from the power of Satan," Donnelly told Church Militant. "It is imperative that senior clergy, such as Cdl. Nichols, forcefully fight back against this syncretistic denial of our Lord as the unique savior of all mankind."
The updated lyrics are from a United Methodist Church resources website that advocates "faithful resistance to anti-LGBTQIA+ policies and practice," and they were earlier used at the Hollywood United Methodist Church in Los Angeles.
The website also offers a hymnal titled Songs for the Holy Other: Hymns Affirming the LGBTQIA2S+ Community. It claims that the hymnal's title "is a self-conscious claiming of otherness as holy and beloved of God. We who have been labeled as 'wholly other' are claiming our holiness, and reclaiming our otherness as a prophetic witness to the church."
There are historical records that show "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" has been sung in England since the 15th century. In 1843, Charles Dickens included the song in his famous novel A Christmas Carol.
In Dickens' classic, the miser Ebenezer Scrooge reveals his attitude to Christmas in this line: "At the first sound of 'God bless you merry, gentlemen, May nothing you dismay,' Scrooge seized the ruler with such energy of action that the singer fled in terror, leaving the keyhole to the fog and even more congenial frost."
"It is grotesquely against the spirit of these carols to make them divisive, as if the original singers would have excluded women or anyone else from their good wishes," Dr. Joseph Shaw, president of the Traditional Latin Mass society Una Voce, told Church Militant.
"The new verses try to suggest that the original version was actually hateful. If so, why are we being invited to sing it at all? It is as if someone were to suggest we all sing the "Horst Wessel Lied" with an extra verse apologizing to the Jews," Shaw said.
The carol has often been misunderstood because of certain phrases that have changed meaning. Scholars note that "God rest ye merry, gentlemen" in medieval England meant "Gentlemen, may God keep you in harmony and happiness."
"Rest ye merry" was used in Old England as early as 1300 in the popular romantic tale Floris and Blancheflour. The Latin dictionary Bibliotheca Eliotae, edited by Bp. Thomas Cooper in 1548, lists the expression "Bee thou gladde: or joyfull, as the vulgare people saie Reste you mery."
At the time, the meaning of "rest" was "keep" or "cause to continue." And "merry" meant "pleasant, harmonious, happy." Wrong punctuation has also led to confusion about the hymn's meaning. The proper placing of the comma is "God rest ye merry, gentlemen."
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