Monday, 13 September 2010

'We can do business with Benedict'

Catherine Pepinster, The Tablet's editor, has a piece in the Guardian's Comment is Free reminding us why this is a state visit -- because the Government wanted it to be; because the Government wants to do business with the Church; because ...
the Catholic Church has a vast network of people on the ground, working in developing nations. Its global social services organisation, Caritas, is second only in size to the International Red Cross. The Church acts as a useful influence on other nations' views on such vital issues, and it's also a superb conduit of information from around the globe; its diplomats are legendary.

That is why all those British politicians went to Rome, and why the Pope is coming here, with the taxpayer part-funding the visit. It's all about pragmatism. No doubt all the media attention will be on the Pope by the media, and all the pomp and ceremony of the visit, and the possibilities of faux-pas, and what I hope will also happen – meetings with abuse victims and a chance to listen to what ordinary Catholics have to say about their Church.

But don't ignore the entourage that is coming too. For they're the ones who will do business with their hosts. They're the seguito, the followers, and in their midst are people who run Vatican departments. The talks they will hold with civil servants and ministers, including a major dinner at Lancaster House, will be a chance to discuss some of the most crucial matters affecting the world today, with people who could well make a difference. The Pope will address not just Catholics but the whole nation during his visit. If they give him a chance, he might just have an impact on their lives. But this visit could change the lives of people in Africa and Asia too.