Thursday, 16 September 2010

Pope speech at Holyrood House

Following the Queen's words of welcome, Pope Benedict recalled how the name of Holyrood House recalls  the Holy Cross and the "deep Christian roots still present" in British national life. He noted how the monarchs of England and Scotland "included Christians from early times", and included "outstanding saints" like Margaret of Scotland and Edward the Confessor, many of whom "exercised their sovereign duty in the light of the Gospel". As a result, the Christian message, he said, has been "an integral part of the language, thought and culture of these islands for more than 1000 years", demonstrated in respect for truth and justice, mercy and charity, for Christians and non-Christians alike.

The Pope praised "many examples of this force for good" in Britons such as William Wilberforce and David Livingstone who struggled to end the slave trade, and Florence Nightingale for setting new standards in health care. Cardinal Newman, he said, was one of many British Christians of his age whose goodness, eloquence and action were born and nurtured in these islands. He recalled how the British stood against Nazi Germany, received Jews, and paid with their lives in a struggle against atheist extremism, which in the totalitarian experiments of the twentieth century showed how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue in public life led to a reductive vision of the person and  his dignity.

The Pope also praised Great Britain for helping to usher in a postwar period of prosperity and peace, founding the UN. He also praised the Good Friday Agreement and the peaceful resolution of the Northern Irish conflict. "I encourage everyone involved to work consciously together for a just and lasting peace,"
he said.

Britain, he went on, was a key figure on international stage, politically and economically, he said, as a shaper of ideas, and has a particular responsibility to work for the common good. The media, he said, had a greater responsibility than most because of this influence. "May all Britons continue to live by honesty, respect and fair-mindedness which have won them esteem and admiration of many."

He said Britain was now striving to be a modern, multicultural society. "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," he said, adding: "Let it not obscure the Christian foundation that underpins its freedoms".