So, the Leader of 1.1 billion Catholics has visited this country on the first Papal State visit ever, and, goodness gracious me, the skies have not erupted in anger. As the ‘Enemy in Scarlet’, the ‘Romish man from hell’ came on a combined State and pastoral visit, what we saw was an elderly gentleman, a German who spoke only slightly-accented English, a Vicar of Christ who met with his counterparts in religion from Anglican, Jewish, Methodist and many others in perfect harmony. His meeting with our Queen did not shake the very ground, nor should it, because it was the Head of one Church and State meeting the Head of another Church and State. Elizabeth Windsor has met many, many leaders in her time on the throne, and the one thing which is certain is that she had no qualms about her meeting with Pope Benedict, the 256th man who has held that august title since St. Peter.
His drive through Edinburgh was greeted warmly, and his reception at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow was beyond reproach. There were not many empty seats, as had been prophesied, there weren’t as many at that mass as when John Paul came a’calling, but Benedict is not John Paul, and makes no claim to be.
The Pope met with four thousand children in Twickenham, and the only scandal resulted from cars being given tickets for being overtime parked. He travelled to London, met with politicians and came away unsullied. He also delivered a speech which told this present Government that they should allow conscience a freedom which was crushed under Labour, especially in the fields of adoption. He conducted a joint service with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and once more the skies did not shudder with lightning of the damned!
The service at Westminster Cathedral, as with the service in Birmingham, came and went with many accepting that a huge amount of organisation had achieved a visit which, while not exactly like clockwork, came up with a good facsimile. I watched part of the service televised from Birmingham and watched as some 90,000 Catholics greeted the leader of their Faith with respect, warmth and admiration. I don’t know about the reaction of the very small children who were held up to the small, white-clad man in the Popemobile so he might bless them, but I reckon we’ll put that one aside.
We also learned that he had met with five of the many victims of abuse, perpetrated by both priests and nuns, and apologised for their trauma, their fear and their injury. We also heard that he expressed his deep sorrow for the unspeakable crimes suffered by those abused by the Catholic priests.
He will leave Great Britain this evening, secure in the knowledge that those who protested were allowed to protest, as is their right under the law. He will leave this Nation a little wiser, having penetrated just a little beneath the brittle outer shell of Official Britain, to find that many ordinary people like the present Vicar of Rome, and despair of the loud mouths who shout, chant and howl their hatred into the distance!
The only quote I shall remember is from one who recalled the last time a Pope came to Britain, and a certain Dr. Ian Paisley was shouting out his bile whilst waving his bible; but the gentle John Paul 2nd smiled, and blessed him anyway!