The Holy Father is about to travel to the "hedonistic wasteland … the geopolitical epicentre of the culture of death", and, judging from some of the nutty media coverage – Satan is irritated.
I think Satan particularly hates this visit to the the devil’s workshop in Europe.
As the Pope’s journey begins, here are a couple points I have been thinking about.
John Paul II’s visit was a pastoral visit. He was the guest of the Church.
Benedict XVI is the guest of the Crown and government. It is a state visit.
Newman is at last being beatified, the Anglican Communion is dissolving, Anglicanorum coetibus is out there, people are deciding where to worship based on new criteria.
It may be that after this trip we will not see another Pope travel to England.
I can’t help but think that this state visit brings a measure of closure some issues including those Henry VIII provoked.
This state visit had to happen to close that rift symbolically, politically (if not religiously). Will there be only four people and a dog to witness it? So be it. It will be done. We prefer huge crowds, of course. It may be that hordes will turn out. They may not. If they don’t, the Bishop of Rome still made a state visit, was received by the Queen, etc.
The Holy Father is also going to focus on something at the heart of pontificate: identity. Pope Benedict, long before his election, has been concerned about the loss of the identity of Europe, the severing of its Christian roots. Without that Christian component, Europe ceases to be Europe. I believe he thinks the same must be said about England.
With those points in mind, I read in the UK’s best Catholic weekly, The Catholic Herald a story by Edward Pentin.
The Pope’s address in Westminster Hall is one of his most important ever
His address to the Queen will be equally historic, but it’s the one at the Palace of Westminster which will have a lasting impact
By Edward Pentin on Wednesday, 15 September 2010
Ask Vatican officials and others here in Rome which of Benedict XVI’s speeches will be the most important during the papal trip, and the answer is the one in Westminster Hall.
The Holy Father’s address to the Queen in Edinburgh will perhaps be equally historic, but it’s the one at the Palace of Westminster which is designed to have a lasting impact.
Freedom of conscience, faith and reason, and the positive contribution to society of the faith are the expected themes of the speech the Pope will deliver in the ancient chamber, perhaps most famous for being the place where St Thomas More was tried and condemned in 1535.
Westminster Hall has also been the site many other historical events, highly significant to British Catholics and to the nation as a whole. Originally constructed by William II (Rufus) in 1097, it was the venue for the coronation banquets of Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, and Elizabeth I. Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot conspirators were tried there, as were Charles I and Sir William Wallace.
More recently, it was where Edward VII, George V, George VI, Queen Mary, Winston Churchill and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother all lay in state. It is also reserved for the most important addresses: Charles de Gaulle delivered a speech in the Hall on a visit to Britain in 1960, and Nelson Mandela did so in 1996.
For the government, Westminster Hall will be a crucial event, but so too will be the working dinner at Lancaster House on the Friday, attended by officials although not the Holy Father. “It’s not the point of the visit, but they [the government] are very interested in this [dinner],” one Vatican official told me. Common issues of concern will be international development, the environment, disarmament, education, HIV/Aids care and interreligious dialogue.
In his speeches, Benedict XVI will also raise matters which might make political leaders wince, namely those relating to marriage, life and the family, but he will apparently do this in a “delicate way”.
Whatever happens, expectations are “very high”, according to the official who’s been involved in some of the visit’s preparation. “Everything is well prepared, and it will be a very special moment. True, there have been difficulties, some people are not so happy with the visit, but it’s very important that ordinary people recognise he’s not just going for Catholics but for everyone, and with an important message to transmit.”
He predicted that it will in fact be “better than expectations” and hoped that “prejudices will fall”.
“It’s about the presence of the Pope,” he said, “and that changes everything.”
Benedict XVI is the Pope of Christian Unity.