Damian Thompson offers some analysis.
I found it reassuring that many of his points are in harmony with some of my thoughts.
Here is some of with my E&C:
How odd that it should be the Guardian that grasped the magnitude of what happened yesterday. Andrew Brown, religion editor of Comment is Free, and the possessor of an intellect as mighty and muddled as that of Rowan Williams, writes:
This was the end of the British Empire. [!] In all the four centuries from Elizabeth I to Elizabeth II, England has been defined as a Protestant nation. The Catholics were the Other; sometimes violent terrorists and rebels, sometimes merely dirty immigrants. The sense that this was a nation specially blessed by God arose from a deeply anti-Catholic reading of the Bible. Yet it was central to English self-understanding when Queen Elizabeth II was crowned in 1952 [sic], and swore to uphold the Protestant religion by law established.
For all of those 400 or so years it would have been unthinkable that a pope should stand in Westminster Hall and praise Sir Thomas More, who died to defend the pope’s sovereignty against the king’s. Rebellion against the pope was the foundational act of English power. And now the power is gone, and perhaps the rebellion has gone, too. [!]
This was indeed a day of unthinkable events. Many Protestants will have been disturbed to see Pope Benedict XVI in Westminster Hall praising St Thomas More (who incidentally died to defend what he saw as the sovereignty of God). I don’t agree, [I don’t know as much about it, but I think Damian is right, and I said as much in my piece.] however, that rebellion against the Pope was the “foundational act of English power”.
Even Catholics who would never be so crude as to say “the Abbey belongs to us, not to you” sensed that history was being re-balanced in some way. [Indeed they would] They realised that the Pope had as much right to sit in that sanctuary as the Archbishop of Canterbury (who, to be fair, showed the Holy Father a degree of respect that implied that he, at least, recognises the spiritual primacy of the See of Peter even if he rejects some of its teachings). [Williams recognizes Benedict’s "Spiritual primacy"? I wonder about that.]
Protestant anti-Catholics, in contrast [to secular humanists to are anti-Catholic], don’t have mates in the media or useful allies in the Church of England. All they can do is watch in horror as the Pope of Rome processes into the church where Protestant monarchs are crowned, declares unambigously that he is the successor of St Peter with responsibility for the unity of Christendom, and then walks out again – to hearty applause. [And I suspect quite a few of them would also applaud… and will, given time.]
To be honest, I’m still not quite sure what to make of it all myself. Benedict XVI’s speeches are worth reading several times; they often turn out to be more radical than they first appear. But one thing is for sure. Despite the unassuming courtesy of the Pope’s manner, he didn’t give an inch. [Exactly.]
Right! Pope Benedict, as usual, won ground of inestimable worth because he was willing to give something. In doing so, he compromised on no essential point. On the contrary, he made himself clear on everything that counted.
Good analysis from Damian, who knows far more about the dynamics of this than the undersigned.
His combox has some truly hateful comments, the sort that are born of panic, guilt, and fear.
Moreover, Benedict XVI is not only the Successor of Peter – a fact he repeated several times in Westminster – he is the Pope of Christian Unity.