Thursday, October 21, 2010

The State Papal Visit

It has been several months since I blogged anything due to the inconvenience of having a day job. There have been many thoughts in my mind over the last few months but I wish to reflect on the first ever State Papal visit to the United Kingdom.

There are many moments that struck me during the visit: the common Christian witness of the Pope and the Queen; the Pope sitting at the same place where St Thomas More was condemned to death within the Palace of Westminster and of course the Beatification of John Henry Newman.

The meeting between the Pope and the Queen had an impact on me. Both are heads of state and both are Christian leaders. Although they may differ on so many areas it strikes me that they both have something very important in common: they both strike me as committed Christians who have dedicated their lives to others. The Queen welcomed the Pope with the words, "your presence here today reminds us of our common Christian heritage" and he reminded her of the great contributions of so many British Christians from William Wilberforce, Florence Nightingale and John Henry Newman.

The speech in the Palace of Westminster struck me more than anything else. The speaker of the House of Commons recalled his predecessor, Thomas More and Pope Benedict recalled the witness of the 'great English scholar and stateman' in the place where the fomer speaker was condemned to death for refusing to put his loyalty to the King above that he owed to God. Listening to the Pope's words in front of so many politicians, I only pray that some of them may listen to his teachings and protect people from forms of socialism and capitalism that lead to injustices and poverty, avoid illegal war, protect all human life from conception, promote compassion and to protect freedom of conscience.

The Beatification of John Henry Newman began with my favourite hymn, Praise to the Holiest and I was moved throughout the ceremony by the crowds, the ritual and the words spoken. The life of John Henry Newman points us again to someone who put truth before convenience, a man whose life shows that we do not have the choice in life between orthodoxy, reason or compassion but they can and should exist together. Blessed John Henry Newman has often been called "the Father of Vatican II" in the sense that he anticipated key themes of the Council and rightly so. The Council he anticipated is not the false 'spirit of Vatican II' but its authentic teachings based on Scripture and Tradition. Blessed John Henry Newman and Pope Benedict share a love for Christ and his Church, a desire to spread the Gospel but rooted in the truth.

My overall impressions following the Papal visit however are that there was such a contrast between the love, joy and hope found in those who welcomed the Pope and the hatred, bigotry and ignorance all too evident in those who attacked and prosted him. The words of the Pope throughout his visit point us to Christ, the only name under which we can be saved.