Thoughts on Benedict XVI’s state visit to England and Scotland

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.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. I agree with you, Fr.Z.
    Satan is really ‘pulling out all the stops’ here…
    The foundation of Europe, esp. the UK, is the Church, even if She has been persecuted since Henry VIII.
    May this “state visit” bring about much fruit for the Catholic Church in the British Isles…England is the Dowry of our Lady.
    May She intercede mightily for our Holy Father and all who hear his words.

  2. William A. Anderson says:

    England’s problem is virulent atheism, fueled by breathless journalism. When Stephen Hawking talks, the mainstream media make sure that people listen. In my own observations, the English are borderline brain-washed. Their groupthink culture keeps them from applying their powers of critical thinking. On a recent visit, a very serious individual told me, quite candidly, that I was the only believer that he knew. That’s not a scientific polling sample, but . . . Vexilla regis prodeunt Inferni.

  3. TJerome says:

    Pope Benedict, the Pope of Christian Unity, will undoubtedly attrack and bring many Anglicans into the Catholic Church through this visit. The Anglican Church is on life support. Parliament should consider dis-establishing it and let it sink or swim. It should also change the Act of Succession to allow Catholics to hold the British crown. This last vestige of anti-Catholic bigotry is silly.

  4. wanda says:

    Been praying four our Holy Father, for his health and safety on this historic journey. May Our Lady protect him and the Angels guard him. I pray that much grace will flow from our Holy Father’s visit and that many hearts will turn back to Almighty God.

  5. English Hermit says:

    Looks like the people are coming out to support the Holy Father.Over 100,000 in Scotland this morning.Well done Scotland!

  6. The Holy Father is in my prayers, as are the people of the United Kingdom. May this visit be a time of healing and reconciliation.

  7. Rellis says:

    When I go to my parish’s TLM tonight, I will make a special intention for the needs of the Holy Father. Heck, since Confession is right before Mass, I might dedicate an indulgence to them.

    But the corporal works of mercy/government socialism stuff makes my stomach wretch.

  8. Randii says:

    Remanat has a piece about the collapse of England as a Christian country. The piece is very critical too of Catholic bishops in England – the Remanat notes some think the disastrous palnning by the English church for the Pope is on purpose – to keep turnout down.

    The Remanant saves some of it’s strongest criticism for the bishops and especially Nichols and Conry . It states that Nichols recently, in reply to a BBC reporter’s questions that the Anglican church is nearing santioning gay marriage and showing flexibility – won’t the Catholic church have to also? Nichol’s reply: “I don’t know. Who knows whats down the road?”.

    According to the Remanant the Catholic church in England is in as bad shaape as English society in general.

  9. Father G says:

    I am watching the Mass live from Bellahouston Park, Glasgow, Scotland.

    Just finished listening to the Gloria being sung with the improved translation. Beautiful!

    Makes me all the more excited for the improved translations in Advent 2011.

  10. jorgepreble says:

    “It may be that after this trip we will not see another Pope travel to England.”

    Why exactly could this be the case?

  11. sawdustmick says:


    It is not just the case that prominent “members of society” are prowling round like a roaring lion. You just have to read some of the comments on the BBC website:-

    and in particular the number of comments that have been removed to realise that it is not antipathy that is at work here but actual hatred, perhaps generated by ego-centricity and paranoia that someone is getting something they’re not (E.G. Funding for a state visit).

    I used to have a Crucifix on my desk when I worked for a previous company, wouldn’t happen now – I’d be instructed to remove it or be disciplined. As I wear a white polo shirt as part of my current uniform, my scapular has already been noticed through the shirt (it’s NOT coming off !), but I wonder whether we are moving back to the necessity of penal crosses here in the UK ? Freedom of WORSHIP being TOLERATED, but freedom of RELIGION anywhere outside your own home SUPPRESSED ?

    We (in the UK particularly) need to pray and do penance !

  12. AnAmericanMother says:

    Music is excellent.

    Homily we had read already; well delivered, it does my heart good to hear that sweet Bavarian accent!

    First time I have ever heard the Prayers of the People offered in Scots Gaelic . . . . !

  13. sawdustmick says:

    @ Father G

    Pray for us in the UK, we need the translations but I believe they are still tinkering with them, with no firm date for introduction. (Unless I’ve missed something – just got back from hols !)

  14. doanli says:

    Jorgepreble beat me to the question.

    Why do you say this, Father?

    I love Benedict and have been praying for him as well; he is a good man.

  15. irishgirl says:

    I loved it that everything from the Preface to the Pater Noster was in Latin!

    I’m praying like crazy that Our Lord will defend His Vicar on earth during this trip, and that Our Lady will place her mantle of protection over him. And that all the Saints, Blesseds, and other holy ones of England and Scotland will intercede for him, for his safety and his protection!

  16. doanli says:

    Wasn’t that lovely, AnAmericanMom?

  17. doanli says:

    I have also asked Pope John Paul II to protect his successor as well.

  18. Rellis: “Society” does not equal “government agency paid for by taxes”. Society is individuals — and particularly individual Catholics and Christians, who do have a duty to perform corporal works of mercy and not leave people to the tender mercies of impersonal government mandate. People can vote and lobby for that stuff if they judge it prudent, as part of their lay vocation; but there’s no obligation and it’s not better. Even and especially agencies of the Church and charity organizations are not supposed to be the be-all and end-all of charity. Charity is between individuals, too; the only corporate body that can take that on is the Bride of Christ.

    This was a very important part of the Holy Father’s previous encyclicals, particularly “Deus caritas est”.

  19. Geoffrey says:

    “I have also asked Pope John Paul II to protect his successor as well.”

    Amen to that. I often recall Pope Benedict’s own words when he was first elected, that he felt his predecessor very near. I imagine all of the Holy Pontiffs in heaven (or purgatory) pray especially for whoever is the current Vicar of Christ on Earth.

  20. BenFischer says:

    Pardon my French, but what the hell’s the problem in England and Scotland? When Benedict came to the US, he got off his plane, visited with the President, went to the UN, had a couple of outdoor masses and visited a Synagogue and a Seminary all without any controversy over ticket prices, special collections, allocation of tickets, arguments over who pays for what (Church or State) or scheduling problems at the venues. All that stuff was done by people who do that kind of stuff with no fuss and no heartburn. People used private initiative and traveled to the events they wanted to travel to and there was no angst over busing fees or what time they had to wake up to get there.

    From all the caterwauling, you’d think they can’t fill the Popemobile with gas without having the budget approved in two consecutive council meetings and the paperwork filled out in triplicate.

  21. S. Murphy says:

    Benfischer — They have national health care, so the state owes it to them to provide an absolutely stress-free experience.

  22. CPKS says:

    Good question, BenFischer. It’s a mystery to many British people also. The all-pervasive, clichéd verbal shrug we use is “it’s ‘elf ‘n’ safety gone mad”. Some say that in this particular case it was also a case of the UK government, worried by inflammatory vitriol from some quarters, afraid that it would stir up terrorist-type attacks on the person of the Holy Father.

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