The pope of Rome in Edinburgh 16/9/2010 – so what was his message?

When famous people meet each other, choreography and posturing is very important to them. This is why our Queen Elizabeth was expected to wear black while visiting the Vatican. So on this occasion one commentator asked: when the pope of Rome meets the Queen, who bows first? Answer: neither. This demonstrates how important choreography is to them. As it means so much to them, it can help us to read the sub-text.

So why did this visit begin in Scotland? The highpoint of the visit is the beatification of John Henry Newman, so there is a natural progression from Scotland to England. However John Haldane suggested on the BBC that it had something to do with their competitive claims as head of their respective churches. More posturing. She is the governor of the established Church of England, but not of the Church of Scotland.

Joseph Ratzinger was met at Edinburgh airport by Prince Philip. There was a guard of honour of some soldiers returned from the Afghanistan war, but there was no red carpet “because of the wind”. A strange reason – what does this piece of choreography mean? After driving in a dark windowed car to Holyrood House, he met the Queen where there was a ceremony of exchanging gifts and speeches.

It was disgraceful and shameful that our Queen should call him “your holiness”. She said: “I’m pleased that your visit will deepen the relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and the established Church of England and Church of Scotland.”

In his reply, the pope of Rome highlighted the role of certain Romanists. “I express my gratitude to Your Majesty’s present and previous governments, and to all those who worked with them to make this occasion possible, including Lord Patten and former Secretary of State Murphy.” This shows the key role that Jim Murphy played in persuading Gordon Brown to invite the pope of Rome to Britain.

“The name of Holyrood House, Your Majesty’s official residence in Scotland, recalls the “Holy Cross” and points to the deep Christian roots that are still present in every layer of British life. The monarchs of England and Scotland have been Christians from very early times, and include outstanding saints like Edward the Confessor and Margaret of Scotland.” “As a result, the Christian message has been an integral part of the language, thought and culture of the peoples of these islands for more than a thousand years.” This figure conveniently obscures the fact that 450 years of Protestantism are not included.

“John Henry Newman, whose beatification I will celebrate shortly, was one of many British Christians of his age whose goodness, eloquence and action were a credit to their countrymen and women. These, and many people like them, were inspired by a deep faith born and nurtured in these islands.” He implies, of course, the Roman Catholic faith rather than the faith of the ancient Celtic church.

The media picked up his most outspoken point: “As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the twentieth century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus to a ‘reductive vision of the person and his destiny’ (Caritas in Veritate, 29)”, quoting his own encyclical.

The media did not comment, however, on a more significant point. He continued: “Your Majesty´s government and the government of Ireland, together with the political, religious and civil leaders of Northern Ireland, have helped give birth to a peaceful resolution of the conflict there. I encourage everyone involved to continue to walk courageously together on the path marked out for them towards a just and lasting peace.”

What is “the path marked out for them”, and who marked it out for them? Does this suggest the pope of Rome’s hand was in the solution? This is not far-fetched because it is suggested by the Queen’s earlier statement. The first significant point she made in her address was: “Much has changed in the world during the nearly 30 years since Pope John Paul’s visit. In this country we deeply appreciate the involvement of the Holy See in the dramatic improvement in the situation in Northern Ireland.”

What involvement was this? Did the pope of Rome mark out the path for them? Was Britain’s Protestantism sold out in the Northern Ireland agreement and does this papal visit originate here? Was the price for peace in Northern Ireland a readiness by our state officials to accept the outlandish claims of the Roman pontiff?

Ratzinger had a cautious word for the British media: “because their opinions reach such a wide audience, the British media have a graver responsibility than most and a greater opportunity to promote the peace of nations, the integral development of peoples and the spread of authentic human rights.”

He showed his concern about the secularist agenda in a parting short: “In this challenging enterprise, may it always maintain its respect for those traditional values and cultural expressions that more aggressive forms of secularism no longer value or even tolerate.”

Aggressive humanism is targeting Roman Catholicism more effectively than the remaining Protestants in Britain, and the pope of Rome is feeling the pinch.

Our Queen wore light grey. She wore blue when pope John Paul II visited her in Buckingham Palace in 1982. British Protestants may like to think that she is exercising her freedom on British soil which she cannot exercise in the Vatican, but rather it may indicate that Rome is encouraged by British capitulation to the sacrilegious claims of the pope of Rome.  In such a context, the pope of Rome is prepared to accept that she will not wear black.  So was the pass sold in the Northern Ireland peace process? Tony Blair is credited as brokering this deal, and since then he has gone over to the Roman fold. Curiouser and curiouser!

Meanwhile, I note that Nick Clegg and the Archbishop of Canterbury were in Edinburgh – but why were they in Scotland? More posturing – these ‘great and the good’ wanted to be in on the act. Others were there also – in a reception at Holyrood. The ladies’ outfits were notable for their hats, a requirement of the Queen’s invitation. Those Christian ladies who do not trouble with head-covering 1Cor 11:5,11 need to ask themselves why?

The two speeches at Holyrood House.


8 Oct 2010: Ratzinger in Glasgow.

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