Sunday, 19 September 2010

Pope leaves UK charmed and challenged

From CV coordinator Austen Ivereigh at America magazine:

A short while ago, at 6.45 pm UK time, Pope Benedict XVI's Alitalia plane, "Shepherd One", threaded its way into the lead skies above Birmingham Airport back to Rome, after a brief departure ceremony in which the prime minister, David Cameron, told him that he had "challenged the whole country to sit up and think".
On this "truly historic first State Visit to Britain," the prime minister said, "you have spoken to a nation of 6 million Catholics but you have been heard by a nation of more than 60 million citizens  and by many millions more all around the world."  Faith, he said, was "part of the fabric of our country ...  a vital part of our national conversation. And we are proud of that."

A country of faith? Challenged to think by the Pope? Something seems to have happened here.

And it has. The spontaneous crowds, the wall-to-wall media coverage, the seeming fascination with the dialogue Pope Benedict sought to have with Britain, are all indications that this unusually state guest was received not with apathy or hostility -- as the media before last Thursday were warning he would be -- but with curiosity and receptivity. This has clearly been a shock for a largely liberal, metropolitan media.The Catholic commentator Clifford Longley, with whom I shared a radio studio this morning, drew a comparison with the US media discovering after George W Bush's election that they had ignored the influence of the flyover states.

There is something of a similar self-questioning evident now: why, when they could only pull together 6,000 demonstrators -- not an insignificant number, but paltry compared to the 200,000 who lined the streets yesterday, and the 80,000 in Hyde Park -- did the media give the anti-Pope protesters so much air time? Or, expressed another way: where the heck did all these people come from?

The answer is, of course, that many came precisely because of the airtime given over to the the gay rights activists, secularists and professional atheists. Catholics are loyal to popes, and to the papacy. They may not know how to answer the protesters' shrill objections, but they know when the leader of their Church is being unfairly trashed. A large number of the "vox pops" interviewed on Sky and the BBC mentioned this as the reason why they decided to line the streets of Whitehall six people deep.

"Everyone is agreed about the great success, not so much from the point of view of the numbers, but ... by the fact that the message of the pope was received with respect and joy by the faithful," the Pope's spokesman, Federico Lombardi, told reporters earlier today. The Vatican has already declared the visit a triumph, and no one seems to disagree.

After the Mass of Beatification of Cardinal Newman, the Pope paid a private visit to the Oratory before going onto to Oscott College, the seminary for the diocese of Birmingham, where he met with the bishops of England, Scotland and Wales.

In his address to them, referring to "the urgent need to proclaim the Gospel afresh in a highly secularized environment", he seemed to suggest an answer to the mystery now being pondered by the media: why, if Britain is so secular, was he received so enthusiastically? "In the course of my visit," he said, "it has become clear to me how deep a thirst there is among the British people for the Good News of Jesus Christ." Is that right? Is Britain -- post-Christian, secular, "believing but not belonging" Britain -- really so hungry for what the Pope has to offer? He certainly seemed, in these four days, to think so, praising great British virtues which he saw as rooted in the nation's Christian legacy.

He told the bishops: "As you proclaim the coming of the Kingdom, with its promise of hope for the poor and the needy, the sick and the elderly, the unborn and the neglected, be sure to present in its fulness the life-giving message of the Gospel, including those elements which call into question the widespread assumptions of today's culture."

He also returned, again, to the clerical sex abuse crisis, a theme which in the last two days of his visit has emerged as almost as important as the argument for the inclusion of faith in public life.

He praised the bishops for having taken "serious steps to remedy this situation, to ensure that children are effectively protected from harm and to deal properly and transparently with allegations as they arise", and called on them "to share the lessons you have learned with the wider community. Indeed, what better way could there be of making reparation for these sins than by reaching out, in a humble spirit of compassion, towards children who continue to suffer abuse elswhere?"

A short time ago I was watching the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, sum this up on the BBC. "What better way for the Church to do penance for its failures than by helping wider society deal better with the abuse in its midst?" he asked.

Pope Benedict also asked the bishops to be "generous" in their response to applications to the ordinariate, which "should be seen as a prophetic gesture that can contribute positively to the developing relations between Anglicans and Catholics" by promoting unity while accepting differences.

He also asked them to see the new English translation of the Mass, "as an opportunity ... for in-depth catechesis on the Eucharist and renewed devotion in the manner of its celebration."

In his closing remarks at Birmingham airport, Pope Benedict thanked the British people for the warmth of their welcome, and spoke again of the challenge of building a pluralistic society, as well as the opportunity for doing so through intercultural dialogue.

Although he had come with a fierce message about the vital importance of the place of faith in public life and education, it had been framed, throughout, in terms and language and symbols which pointed to the value of dialogue and respect. It is this, perhaps above all, which floored his critics. The Pope's was a message which all could instantly recognise as the true humanism.

He leaves a Church invigorated and unified by his visit; a Church more proud and confident than it was last Wednesday; a Church which will be pondering some magnificent texts for many years to come - -and images of a Pope whose smiling, gentle countenance speaks of the kind of humanism Britain will need to prosper.

Christopher Morgan on BBC World Service from Cofton Park

CV Christopher Morgan spoke from Cofton Park to BBC WS 'World Today' here (from 0805) and  Newshour here (at 1305).

National Catholic Reporter on Catholic Voices

Veteran Vatican-watcher John Allen interviews CV coordinator Austen Ivereigh on Catholic Voices.

Cofton Park: homily text


Hyde Park: homily text


Pope beatifies Newman

Austen Ivereigh writing at America

[COFTON PARK, BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND]. The Mass of the Beatification of Cardinal Newman has just ended. Newman is beatified. This was the Pope's final large-scale event, and it was another triumph. He has not put a foot wrong, and the newspapers this morning are all wondering how he did it.

"By our apostolic authority," said Pope Benedict, speaking before a crowd of 65,000 at a park outside Birmingham close to where the Blessed was buried, "we declare that the venerable Servant of God, John Henry, Cardinal Newman, priest of the Congregation of the Oratory, shall henceforth be invoked as Blessed, and that his feast shall be celebrated every year of the ninth of October".

The Gospel was read by Deacon Jack Sullivan, the Bostonian whose back cure paved the way for the Beatification.

The sun has come out every day for Pope Benedict's four-day UK visit but on this, the last day, the rain drizzled on the pilgrims arriving in the early hours. But it cleared for the beginning of Mass at 10am and there were flashes of sun in the leaden sky.

The Mass was solemn, with the words of the Consecration in Latin, but there have been some modern hymns and prayers of the faithful in different languages. Fr Richard Duffield, provost of the Birmingham Oratory, and vice-postulator for the Newman cause, read the brief biography.

The choir was magnificent, drawn from parishes across the country.

In his 20-minute homily, Pope Benedict began with a reference to today's 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. "For me as one who lived and suffered through the dark days of the Nazi regime in Germany, it is deeply moving to be here with you on this occasion, and to recall how many of your fellow citizens sacrificed their lives, courageously resisting the forces of that evil ideology."

He said Newman was worthy to take his place "in a long line of saints and scholars from these islands, St Bede, St Hilda, St Aeldred, Blessed Duns Scotus, to name but a few." In Blessed John Henry Newman, he said, "that tradition of gentle scholarship, deep human wisdom and profound love for the Lord has borne rich fruit, as a sign of the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit deep wtihin the heart of God's people, bringing forth abundant gifts of holiness."

He said that Cor ad cor loquitur, Cardinal Newman's motto -- also the motto of Pope Benedict's UK visit -- expressed "the profound desire of the human heart to enter into intimate communion with the Heart of God".He went on:

"His insights into the relationship between faith and reason, into the vital place of revealed religion in civilized society, and into the need for a broadly-based and wide-ranging approach to education were not only of profound importance for Victorian England, but continue today to inspire and enlighten many all over the world. I would like to pay particular tribute to his vision for education, which has done so much to shape the ethos that is the driving force behind Catholic schools and colleges today. Firmly opposed to any reductive or utilitarian approach, he sought to achieve an educational environment in which intellectual training, moral discipline and religious commitment would come together."

The Pope ended with a tribute to Newman the priest, drawing attention to some of the lesser-known aspects of Newman's life -- visiting the sick and poor, comforting the bereaved, visiting prisoners. "No wonder that on his death so many thousands of people lined the local streets as hos body was taken to its place of burial not half a mile from here," he said, adding: "One hundred and twenty years later, great crowds have assembled again to rejoice in the Church's solemn recognition of the outstanding holiness of this much-loved father of souls."

The Pope is now on his way to the Oratory, for a brief tour of Newman's rooms, before joining the bishops of England, Wales and Scotland at Oscott College, the archdiocesan seminary. He is likely to refer there to the new liturgical translations, and the Ordinariate scheme. Then he will be returning to Rome -- at the end of a visit that can only be described as a triumph. As one BBC journalist put to me, "the Pope has played a blinder."

Cofton Park: Deacon Jack Sullivan reads the Gospel

Pope 'impressed' with British child protection policies

From Austen Ivereigh at America magazine. 

Bill Kilgallon, chairman of the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission of England and Wales, gave a briefing to journalists shortly before the beginning of Mass here at Cofton Park, Birmingham, about the meeting which took place yesterday -- the first of its kind -- between the Pope and safeguarding officials in south London.

He said:

In talking to the Pope, the things he was particularly interested in England, some of the features of our structures, what impressed him was that there was one set of policies and procedures for the whole Church, for the dioceses and the religious orders, that they all subscribe to. The second is that we have people involved at every level, independent lay people, so that in every parish there is a representative working for safeguarding, a volunteer, in every diocese we have professional safeguarding staff, at least one in each diocese, and in each diocese we have a safeguarding office made up of independent people and church people, always chaired by an independent lay person, with relevant experience – a lawyer, a psychiatrist, a judge, whatever. And then at the national level we have a commission which I chair which has representatives of the Church and a majority of independent lay people, and that commission sets the policies and procedures and then we monitor each diocese and each religious order keeps to the policies we set, and that’s the model we discussed yesterday with the Pope, and he was particularly positive to us that we always involve the statutory authorities any time there is an allegation of abuse in the Church by a lay person, a priest, whoever; and he was very impressed that we have independence built in to the process right the way through so that our aim is to try to prevent future abuse and to make sure that if it does occur it is properly thoroughly and independently investigated.

Is this a model which should be shared with other countries - did the Pope speak about that?

We share our work in other countries and all the safeguarding people from English-speaking countries meet to exchange experiences but it’s not always easy to slot one policy into a different legal system. But the principles we have here of cooperation with statutory authorities – police or social services, depending on the allegation -- and independence at each stage are policies which other countries could incorporate and many of them do.

Did you request the meeting?

I suggested it to the organisers and the Pope’s advisers immediately accepted it. He’s met victims of abuse in many countries, this is the first time he’s met people involved in safeguarding.
Are you content with what he has said and done on this?
If you look at what he said on the plane and in Westminster Cathedral, made it clear that he’s determined that the Church should respond better to the victims of abuse, to give them more support; and I think that’s the challenge to us in this country – to improve the ways we offer support.

You say he was impressed by the way you report to the statutory authorities – what did he actually say?

He said this was very important, the way we cooperate with the civil authorities. He said, “this is very important”.

How many safeguarding officers were present at the meeting?

One parish representative, one safeguarding officer from a diocese, there was one chair of a diocesan commission, there was the national director of our safeguarding office, my deputy chair on the national commission, a religious sister, and then two safeguarding people from Scotland. The meeting lasted about 15-20 minutes and took place in St Peter’s home for elderly people in south London yesterday.

What do you make of the call by some protesters that the Church should hand over its files on abusive priests to the civil authorities?

Well in this country we have no files that we would not share with the statutory authorities. So we’ve got a policy of immediate referral to statutory authorities, and I think, for our countries of England and Wales, it works, and I think we should always be doing that.

Are those files also copied to the Vatican, at the same time as they are given to the statutory authorities?

No there is a procedure when matters get to a certain stage, when they have to be referred to the Vatican.

What stage is that?

Always at the stage of conviction.

So the Vatican doesn’t see any files about abusive priests unless they are convicted?

They may be referred to the Vatican earlier if they are serious. Papers would usually only go to the Vatican if there were an intention to laicise.

What’s changed, if anything, following your meeting with the Pope?

Nothing has changed in our structures and policies, but we had very clear support from the Pope for the approach we are taking, he was really positive about that approach – having independence built in at every stage and referring all allegations to the police and social services, and having very robust selection procedures for selecting volunteers and candidates to the priesthood.

Cofton Park: the protest fizzles out

Taken about 15 minutes before the Pope's arrival.

Pope in Hyde Park: Ask to say 'yes'

From Austen Ivereigh at America:

If Pope Benedict is half as tired as I now feel at the end of the vigil in London's Hyde Park, he will sleep well tonight -- after another punishing schedule at the close of his triumphant UK visit.

The Vigil -- which managed to resist being termed "Pope in the Park" -- was moving, powerful, and prayerful, a wonderful showcase of English Catholicism, and further proof that Benedict XVI is very far from the aloof academic he is often described as. His spontaneous response to an enthusiastic crowd of 80,000, including thousands of exuberant young people, had touches of his predecessor; and his message, too, had at times a John Paul II feel.

Before his arrival -- with great scenes of the Popemobile in some of central London's signature streets -- journalists in the press tent were kept busy with two breaking stories, which flowed perfectly from this morning's main story, the Pope's expression of contrition over abuse at the Cathedral.

The first was that, as it was expected he would, Pope Benedict met abuse victims at the nunciature in south-west London, where he went for lunch and a rest after Mass this morning in Westminster Cathedral. He prayed with them and assured them that the Catholic Church is continuing to implement effective measures designed to safeguard young people, and that "it is doing all in its power to investigate allegations, to collaborate with civil authorities and to bring to justice clergy and religious (brothers) accused of these egregious crimes,"

The second piece of news, which appeared in our inboxes just minutes before the Pope arrived at the Hyde Park arena, was that the Pope had also met officials of the Church's Safeguarding Commission while visiting a home for the elderly in Vauxhall, south London. The meeting, said the Vatican, was the first of its kind.

He praised them for ensuring that "the preventative measures put in place are effective, that they are maintained with vigilance, and that any allegations of abuse are dealt with swiftly and justly" and added:

It is deplorable that, in such marked contrast to the Church’s long tradition of care for them, children have suffered abuse and mistreatment at the hands of some priests and religious. We have all become much more aware of the need to safeguard children, and you are an important part of the Church’s broad-ranging response to the problem. While there are never grounds for complacency, credit should be given where it is due: the efforts of the Church in this country and elsewhere, especially in the last ten years, to guarantee the safety of children and young people and to show them every respect as they grow to maturity, should be acknowledged. I pray that your generous service will help to reinforce an atmosphere of trust and renewed commitment to the welfare of children, who are such a precious gift from God

In what may have been a deft piece of news management by the Church, these two stories broke just as the "Protest the Pope" demonstration was gathering a few thousand placard-waving gay activists and abuse survivors. As the news broadcasts flicked between the Pope meeting frail elderly people and the demonstrators, their allegations, that the Church was covering up abuse, seemed far more unpersuasive than just a few days ago. Peter Tatchell, the frontman for "Protest the Pope" was left complaining about the "massive Catholic media machine" with which, he said, they could barely compete.

This is certainly a new experience for British Catholics -- to be painted as a "massive media machine".

Once the Vigil began, the moment was the Pope's. The Priests -- the Northern Irish clerical trio whose albums have sold massively -- were the warm-up stars; but the real star was a huge choir drawn from all the dioceses of England and Wales who have been practising for three days.

Pope Benedict seemed to respond warmly to the crowd, which waved flags and sang "Be-ne-dict-us" over and over.

In his homily, he drew three lessons from Newman's life and work. The first was that "in our day, when an intellectual and moral relativism threatens to sap the very foundations of our society, Newman reminds us that, as men and women made in the likeness of God, we were created to know the truth, to find in that truth our ultimate freedom and the fulfilment of our deepest human aspirations."

Second, he said Newman's life showd how a passion for the truth and intellectual honesty are costly, and called for testimony. "In our own time the price to be paid for fidelity to the Gospel is no longer being hanged, drawn and quartered but it often involves being dismissed out of hand, ridiculed or parodied," he said, adding that the Church "cannot withdraw from the task of proclaiming Christ and His gospel as saving truth".

Finally, he said, Newman teaches that "there can be no separation between what we believe and the way we live our lives". By praying and through the sacraments, the Pope said, "we draw people one step closer to Christ and His truth".

He then quoted Newman's mediation that "God has called me to some definite service. He has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another". Only Jesus knows what that "definite service" is, he went on; and he urged young people to "be open to his voice resounding in the depths of your heart: even now his heart is speaking to your heart."

"Ask Our Lord what he has in mind for you! Ask him for the generosity to say 'yes!' Do not be afraid to give yourself totally to Jesus."

If it weren't delivered in the Pope's deadpan, heavily accented English, this might have sounded like an evangelical revival; but this was the Successor to St Peter.