The Archbishop of Birmingham celebrates five years in the post today with a warning to Catholics that "choppier waters lie ahead".
The Most Reverend Vincent Nichols told the quarter-of-a-million parishioners in his archdiocese that society increasingly assumed God played no role in modern-day life and they must be prepared to defend their faith.
"I would like Catholics to be more confident to speak out against their critics, not with over-assertiveness, but with reason and faith," he told The Birmingham Post.
"Choppier waters lie ahead for the Catholic Church in as much as public voices are more and more critical of religion. I expect there to be more criticism and persecution in the future. A post-modernist society is dismissive of religion and will attack it. We must have the confidence to attack back."
The archbishop, whose archdiocese spreads from Cheshire to the Thames to include more than 230 parishes, said his greatest challenge in the next five years was to keep teenagers and young families involved in the faith.
He said during his fiveyear term he had seen a blossoming relationship between the region's different faiths and a recognition by Birmingham's civic leaders of the importance of religion.
Archbishop Nichols added: "Faith is increasingly recognised as a feature of everyday life in this city.
"It is not so long ago that it was mooted that 'Christmas' celebrations should be renamed 'Winterval'.
"I believe there will be an increasing sense here in Birmingham that faith plays an important role in our lives."
In his sermon at St Chad's Cathedral, he repeated his warnings over abortions and designer babies, saying MPs should be made accountable for decisions which affect the "innocent and vulnerable" in society.
He called on parishioners to keep the issue alive in the run-up to the General Election to end the "dreadful" situation of Britain's abortion laws. And he blamed MPs for themselves making religion a political issue by advertising their own faiths and beliefs on issues.
He said calls for gender selection and embryo experiments, in the report by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, would give prospective parents "the right to kill those that are not wanted".
He added: "These are profoundly moral issues that touch on our most fundamental religious beliefs, and our politicians must be asked to account for their actions which they claim to make on our behalf.
"The protest that religion is to be kept out of politics is already rejected by the actions of our politicians themselves."