Thursday, 16 September 2010

An extraordinary day

Catholics in the UK have long wanted a national debate about the role of faith in public life. Within hours of his landing in Scotland, the Pope has generated it. Secularists, atheists and humanists are outraged by the directness of his assault. The messenger may be humble and gentle. But his message cuts to the core.

The Pope continued the argument he began in Edinburgh at a joyous outdoor Mass attended by 70,000 in Bellahouston Park in Glasgow, reprising a phrase which has come to dne his pontificate.
The evangelisation of culture is all the more important in our times, he said in his homily, "when a 'dictatorship of relativism' threatens to obscure the unchanging truth about man's nature, his destiny and the ultimate good."

He continued: "There are some who now seek to exclude religious belief from public discourse, to privatize it or even to paint it as a threat to equality and liberty," he said. "Yet religion is in fact a guarantee of authentic liberty and respect, leading us to look upon every person as a brother or sister."
He went on to call on lay people "not only to be examples of faith in public, but also to put the case for the promotion of faith's wisdom and vision in the public forum." Society today, he said, "needs clear voices which propose our right to live, not in a jungle of self-destructive and arbitrary freedoms, but in a society which works for the the welfare of its citizens and offers them guidance and protection in the face of their weakness and fragility."

There were some moving moments in the Mass: stopping to kiss babies held up by security guards, and giving Communion to profoundly disabled people -- another way of giving the same message.

The mood among Catholics here is buoyant. It's the end of Day One, but we already have what Catholics have long wanted.

One can feel the ground shifting. Tomorrow will be fascinating.