‘Heart speaks to heart’
Fr Pawel Rozpiatkowski
The welcome was predicted to be cold. Protests, grumbling and sniffing at the visit. But it was as always contrary to what the media speculated, which does not mean that it was easy. The next pilgrimage of the Pope, this time to England and Scotland, which some called the most secularised part of Europe, turned out to be successful.
Some protests were seen. They were usually small groups having gay banners, which disappeared among the crowds that greeted the Pope and if there had not been the keen sight of the journalists it would have been difficult to justify the false prophecies and the groups might not have been noticed. The term ‘marginal’ means too much in this case.
Before the visit Cardinal Keith O’Brien of Edinburgh protested against the anti-Catholic prejudices in the media, especially on the BBC. The parishioners from St Vianney’s Church in northern London were amazed having seen the afternoon BBC news on 13 September during which some sham parishioner spoke about the emotions before the visit on behalf of them. Nobody present in the church service knew that woman. The protest sent to the BBC was ignored.
Appeal to media
Those who wanted to see Benedict XVI during his first official visit to Great Britain had the chance to see themselves how much the picture of the Pope was distorted by the unfriendly media belonging to the main stream. By the way, Benedict XVI spoke to the workers of the communications at the beginning of his visit. It was also striking and unprecedented. ‘The British media have a graver responsibility than most and a greater opportunity to promote the peace of nations, the integral development of peoples and the spread of authentic human rights’, the Holy Father said. After the first day of the visit the press commentaries seemed to be more favourable.
‘The Times’ entitled its report of the first day ‘Fight for faith’. Great Britain is a country where radical atheism raises its banners higher and higher. On the BBC television the main face of the British atheism Richard Dawkins is a frequent guest whereas the Christian point of view is marginalised. It was in London that there were buses with the mottos, ‘There’s probably no god’, and Christmas is called winter holiday.
Do not let be deceived
In his first address delivered in the grounds of the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the residence of Queen Elizabeth II, Benedict XVI pointed to the Christian roots, which left stable traces in the British life and he also warned, ‘Today, the United Kingdom strives to be a modern and multicultural society. In this challenging enterprise, may it always maintain its respect for those traditional values and cultural expressions that more aggressive forms of secularism no longer value or even tolerate.’ That day during the afternoon Mass celebrated in Bellahouston Park in Glasgow, the Pope tried to convince the gathered, ‘The evangelization of culture is all the more important in our times, when a “dictatorship of relativism” threatens to obscure the unchanging truth about man’s nature, his destiny and his ultimate good. There are some who now seek to exclude religious belief from public discourse, to privatize it or even to paint it as a threat to equality and liberty.’ He encouraged the crowds of 65,000, saying, ‘I appeal in particular to you, the lay faithful, in accordance with your baptismal calling and mission, not only to be examples of faith in public, but also to put the case for the promotion of faith’s wisdom and vision in the public forum. Society today needs clear voices which propose our right to live, not in a jungle of self-destructive and arbitrary freedoms, but in a society which works for the true welfare of its citizens and offers them guidance and protection in the face of their weakness and fragility.’
Hope in young people
Benedict XVI, like his great predecessor John Paul II, sees hope in young people and their ideals. In Glasgow the Pope spoke to young Scots not to yield to the temptations, which ‘the world tells you will bring you happiness, yet these things are destructive and divisive.’ In Glasgow the Holy Father warned young people whereas in London he showed them the way during the meeting with pupils of Catholic schools in the Chapel and Sports Arena of St Mary’s University College Twickenham (London Borough of Richmond), ‘What God wants most of all for each one of you is that you should become holy. He loves you much more than you could ever begin to imagine, and he wants the very best for you. And by far the best thing for you is to grow in holiness.’
Invariable will of dialogue
The meetings of Benedict XVI with the representatives of other religions, especially the leaders of the Anglican Church, prevailing in the United Kingdom, which has experienced inner conflicts, was very much expected. Benedict XVI met the first group in St Mary’s University College in London on 17 September. The Pope spoke about the uniting elements and thanked the gathered for the testimony of primacy of spirit, especially important in the times in which religious values were depreciated. Like in the meeting with the pupils he referred to the relationship between reason and faith, which were complimentary. ‘The quest for the sacred does not devalue other fields of human enquiry. On the contrary, it places them in a context which magnifies their importance, as ways of responsibly exercising our stewardship over creation’, the Holy Father said. He ensured that the Catholic Church wanted to promote the dialogue.
Then the Pope had a meeting with the Anglican bishops at Lambeth Palace. He spoke again about the things that united and divided. He stressed the changed context of the dialogue. He also presented Cardinal John Newman as an example of ecumenical attitude, a man faithful to his conscience, even at great personal cost.
Towards the climax
The next days of the papal visit led to the culmination – the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman, which was held on Sunday 19 September 2010. It was preceded by a prayer vigil. The solemn act of beatification of one of the most outstanding intellectualists of his times was made in Birmingham, the place where he had founded the first English Oratory and where he had passed away to the Lord.