Skip to comments.In Depth Analysis: The key to the Pope's success in Great Britain
Posted on 09/21/2010 5:45:25 PM PDT by Salvation
Most of the reporters writing about the papal visit are clearly surprised by this outcome, and more than a few are betraying their disappointment. A week ago the same reporters were predicting a debacle, and some of them were relishing that prospect. The Pope would face angry protesters wherever he turned, they said. The crowds would be small and subdued. There would be empty seats at the Popes public appearances. The staid, jaded secular world of Great Britain would listen skeptically, perhaps nod and clap politely, and then quickly move on to other things, dismissing the old man from Rome.
But Pope Benedict didnt follow that script.
In every particular, the predictions were wrong. The crowds were loud and enthusiastic. The protesters were there, but even their friends in the mass media had trouble locating them among the tens of thousands who lined the streets to cheer for the passing papal motorcade, or thronged around Hyde Park to join in an evening prayer vigil. Britains political and intellectual leaders watched and listened carefully as the Pope spoke, and his words had an obvious impact. Prime Minister David Cameron spoke for an entire nation when, at the conclusion of the papal visit, he told the departing Pontiff that he had made Britain sit up and think.
Now the analysts who had predicted a disasteror perhaps, at best, a polite irrelevancyare struggling to explain how the Pope confounded their expectations. I think I can explain.
When they predicted an unsuccessful papal visit, analysts were basing their judgment on an assumption. They took it for granted that Pope Benedict would respond to the criticism that had dominated the British media during the last few weeks before his arrival. They assumed that the Pope would be worried about the protests and nervous about the likelihood of popular rejection. Clearly he was not.
Speaking with reporters during the flight from Rome, Pope Benedict said that he recognized anti-Catholicism as a force in Britain, but was not disturbed by it. He voiced his confidence that a deeper, stronger, fundamental commitment to the Christian heritage would also come into play. When asked how he would propose to make the Catholic Church more attractive to the people of Great Britain, he gave a surprising answer:
I would say that a Church that seeks to be particularly attractive is already on the wrong path, because the Church does not work for her own ends, she does not work to increase numbers and thus power. The Church is at the service of another: she serves, not for herself, not to be a strong body, rather she serves to make the proclamation of Jesus Christ accessible
With those words the Holy Father was signaling that he did not intend to fulfill the analysts expectations. He would not be defending himself when he spoke to British audiences. He would not be worrying about how the public would perceive him. He was traveling to the United Kingdom at the service of another, to proclaim the truth and spread the Gospel. So his own ego was not engaged; in a sense he did not care what people thought of him. He only cared what people thought of Jesus Christ.
Pope Benedicts personal style is quiet and ingratiating. His evident humility, and the deference with which he treats others, make it impossible for the public to continue thinking of him as the media had portrayed him. The people of Great Britain did not see a stern, rigid ideologue. They saw a mild, self-deprecating man who treated them with respectand, because he respected them, told them the truth.
As he said several times during his visit, Pope Benedict saw Britain as a society longing for faith, thirsting for the truth. The reaction to his words proves that he was right. He offered his audiences the truths of the Catholic faithwithout bombast, without polemics, but also without apology. And the crowds were fascinated.
Great Britain, clearly, is a nation searching for a sense of purpose. Once a great global empire, brimming over with a sense of moral righteousness, today the nation is uncertain about its own identity: uncertain what it means to be a British subject, or what are the fundamental principles on which British culture is founded. In religious affairs especially, the old establishment has broken down. The Church of England has lost its place as the moral authority over the nation. The Anglican communion has disintegrated into a congeries of different groups with different beliefs and different practices, held together only by their desperate determination to ignore those differences.
Human nature abhors a vacuum, and now into this vacuum of moral leadership strode Pope Benedict, proclaiming truths that might not be welcomed by a secularized audience, but must be recognized as consistent and compelling, worthy at least of some considerationenough to make people sit up and think.
Writing in (of all places) the Guardian, columnist Andrew Brown took note of this clash betweenas the headline of his column put itmoral absolutes and crumbling empires. The old Protestant ideas that had governed Great Britain for four centuries had run their course and lost their energy; now the Pope proposed a return to principles of thought that were both old and new: both a part of the British tradition from before the Reformation and a break with more recent history. This was the end of the British Empire, Brown said, speaking of the Popes address to political leaders in Westminster Hall.
(Whether he was exaggerating the importance of the papal address, time will tell. But in connecting the British Empire with the Protestant experiment, Brown was historically accurate. It was Henry VIII, the founder of the schismatic Church of England, who first defined the British crown as an imperial enterprise.)
Pope Benedict was gentle but relentless in challenging the basic ideas that sustained that distinctively Protestant imperial era. In his historic address at Westminster Hallwith every living former prime minister in attendancethe Pope suggested that St. Thomas More, who had been condemned to death in that same hall, was a model for Church-state relations. At Lambeth Palace, speaking to Anglican bishops with the Archbishop of Canterbury at his side, he proposed Blessed John Henry Newman as a model for ecumenical affairs. Now obviously if St. Thomas More was right, then King Henry was wrong to have him executed, and to break with the Holy See. If Cardinal Newman was right, then todays Anglican prelates can make themselves right by entering the Catholic Church. The Pope did not draw out these conclusions, but his implications were inescapable.
Indeed, the impact of Pope Benedicts message to Great Britain was heightened by the things he did not saybecause he did not need to say them. In his address to Anglican prelates he did not focus on Anglicanorum Coetibus, with its bold invitation for Anglicans to enter into the Catholic Church. But surely that apostolic constitution was on the minds of the Anglican bishops who were listening as he spoke about the path to Christian unity. At Westminster Hall, when he praised the anti-slavery crusade led by William Wilberforce, he did not mention todays battle to end abortion, but only a very dull politician would fail to notice the parallel. When he mentioned that Westminster cathedral is dedicated to St. Peter, he could rely on those who listened to realize that St. Peters successor was now in the building. And when he recalled the great heritage of British Christianity dating back to the times of St. Edward the Confessor and the Venerable Bede, it required very little imagination to notice that those happy days were before the split that gave rise to the Church of England.
Throughout the trip, Pope Benedict was quietly, humbly, but persistently staking a claim. He was not coming to Britain as a visitor from outside, hoping to be welcomed by the nations leaders. He was claiming, as St. Peters successor, to be the rightful moral leader of this old Christian society. He was inviting Britain to end its 400-year flirtation with Protestantism and reclaim its Catholic heritage. He was promising that a nation founded on the truths of the Catholic faith could be a prosperous, pluralistic, and successful modern society.
The Pope was making an astonishingly bold series of claims, really. He made them with disarming humility, so that his audiences did not take offense. Still the challenges were unmistakable. Now with the Pope back in Rome, a stunned British society has time to digest the papal message, to realize the implications of what he said, to sit up and think.
More than that -- start evangelizing and coming back to the Church, converts, reverts, those who have been away from Confession for 40 years.......they will all come.
Only a Saint could go to England and make that case and get away with it. Oh, how I love him.
b4l (Bump for later).
If you build it (or show them that it is rebuilt), then they will come...
Excellent article. It was nice to see the Holy Father celebrate Mass at Westminster Cathedral, as I had been there a few months earlier. The greeting by the youth outside the Cathedral was very hopeful, too.
I’ll tell you what else I noticed. At Westminster Hall, when addressing the government and former prime ministers some woman who was speaking tried to bait him with the usual secular talk but he made her look small simply by not taking that line.
I believe they ARE welcomed.
If they do nothing - it will be Islam.
These are the same qualities that struck me when he visited USA. He is truly guided by the Holy Spirit, and has been send by God in a great shower of mercy and love for mankind. JMHO
Let's us pray that our British brethren return to the fold that offers eternal life.
I don’t think they will make that mistake.
**Let’s us pray that our British brethren return to the fold that offers eternal life. **
Amen and Amen and Amen, Alleluia!
I believe they will.
Wow! An England returned to being a stalwart support for Catholicism would be miraculous! But who would have thought 20 years ago that the Patriarch of Moscow would be blessing icons put on the gates to the Kremlin? Russia is returning to the One Apostolic Church (one could argue that communism was only a brief nightmare for it) and now Britain. Next, the daughter of the Church must be brought back!
Go to Lewes, a town near Brighton in E. Sussex for Guy Fawkes day (Nov 14) — they burn an effigy of the Pope there as they have done for 400 years. But, if you ask any of those doing it if they go to Church — any church — the answer is no, they never step inside any religious institute except maybe for weddings and funerals. They are godless, but they know to hate. Why? They don’t know, but they do. These are not Christian Protestants we debate against, but godless Secularists who we fight against for THEIR souls.
Great pictures! The iconography, you undoubtedly noticed, is quite “realistic. This is emblematic of late 19th / early 20th century Russian influence. One sees the same sort of iconography in Greece in churches from the same era. Here, especially in New England, the iconography from the immediate post WWI and into the 1920s era is very similar, much of which was written by one itinerant iconograher whose work shows up all over the place in Greek and Antiochian churches, like my own home parish.
Absolutely beautiful photos. Thanks for scanning and posting them.
Brought tears to my eyes.
It is very lovely. I got lots of pictures and even a panorama of London from the campanile.
Dear -----------Had I not unaccountably forgotten to send this message yesterday, I would have already told you what an outstanding success the Pope's visit to Britain wasagainst all media expectations. Phil Lawler explains why in his latest In Depth Analysis: The key to the Pope's success in Great Britain.
Phil also makes an important point about the odds on the size of the crowds at papal events: Take the over.
Here are the rest of Benedict's addresses in the UK (excluding those listed in Friday's message):
In On the News, Phil Lawler rightly interprets this as a personal invitation to enter the Church. You can keep up with all the Pope's homilies and addresses in our library:
One of the early Archbishops of Canterbury was Greek. The Eastern character of the British Churches was suppressed after the split in 1054 and latinized.
The St. Louis Cathedral Basilica also has a striking resembles to the Westminister Cathedral in many ways. Nothing Gothic in it.
The St. Louis Basilica is one of the few Trindentine churches still in existence.
All the art and holy icons are in the Byzantine style mosaic.
Compare that to this post-Vatican II pagan temple.
Here is the iconistasis of the Patriarchal Cathedral in Belgrade, Serbia, which dates from the same era.
Even the exterior arhcitechture is not Byzantine at all. The churchis built in a basilica style. From the looks of it, one would never guess the church is an Eastern Orthodox temple. Many churches built in this period in northern Serbia resemble western churches (basilicas) in their exterior as well as iconography.
The Church is located across the street form the Serbian Patriarchy, which can be seen as a domed building in the lower part of the picture.
True — and the Church in Praga (left bank of Warsaw) is stunning, absolutely, utterly stunning. Thankfully, no tourists inside, and, like other Churches in Warsaw, packed with believers
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