Pope confirms UK trip, calls for Catholic apologists

Pope Benedict XVI has given the first official Vatican confirmation that he will be visiting the UK in September to beatify Cardinal Newman. The full text of his address to the English and Welsh bishops at the conclusion of their ad limina visit is here.

He doesn't give any further details, nor even names the date, although 16-18 September is circulating among the bishops. The fact that he doesn't suggests that the itinerary is still very much under discussion. Perhaps he is leaving it to the bishops to give the details, which have been at the heart of their discussions in Rome. 


The Pope's address homes in on the battles in Britain currently being fought over equality legislation, especially in relation to gay people, which have a strong potential impact on the capacity of Catholic organizations to remain true to their beliefs while at the same time receive public funding.

"Your country is well known for its firm commitment to equality of opportunity for all members of society," he tells the bishops. "Yet as you have rightly pointed out, the effect of some of the legislation designed to achieve this goal has been to impose unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs. In some respects it actually violates the natural law upon which the equality of all human beings is grounded and by which it is guaranteed."

He calls for a robust Catholic presence in public conversation, appealing to the British tradition of free speech:

"Continue to insist upon your right to participate in national debate through respectful dialogue with other elements in society. In doing so, you are not only maintaining long-standing British traditions of freedom of expression and honest exchange of opinion, but you are actually giving voice to the convictions of many people who lack the means to express them: when so many of the population claim to be Christian, how could anyone dispute the Gospel’s right to be heard?"

And he calls for the bishops to mobilize lay people to ensure that presence:

Make it your concern, then, to draw on the considerable gifts of the lay faithful in England and Wales and see that they are equipped to hand on the faith to new generations comprehensively, accurately, and with a keen awareness that in so doing they are playing their part in the Church’s mission.In a social milieu that encourages the expression of a variety of opinions on every question that arises, it is important to recognize dissent for what it is, and not to mistake it for a mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate. It is the truth revealed through Scripture and Tradition and articulated by the Church’s Magisterium that sets us free.

These comments suggest that his UK visit will be a grand opportunity to pit Pope Benedict the defender of Reason + Faith against the apostles of scientism who promote a new, aggressive British -- although many would say very unBritish -- secularism. And the main tool of this counter-attack will be, of course, Cardinal Newman.

Cardinal Newman realized this, and he left us an outstanding example of faithfulness to revealed truth by following that “kindly light” wherever it led him, even at considerable personal cost. Great writers and communicators of his stature and integrity are needed in the Church today, and it is my hope that devotion to him will inspire many to follow in his footsteps.

He also calls for "generosity" in implementing Anglicanorum coetibus, his apostolic constitution which allows for the creation of ecclesial structures to accommodate Anglicans wishing to cross the Tiber while retaining their River Thames swimwear. "I am convinced that, if given a warm and open-hearted welcome, such groups will be a blessing for the entire Church," the Pope says.

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Brandon Kemp
8 years 11 months ago
Ironic that the pontiff is so forcefully fighting against real social and political equality for lesbians and gays in the UK considering the longstanding rumors surrounding Newman's own sexuality. The simple fact of the matter is that organizations which opt for discriminatory policies against LGBT people on the basis of their religious beliefs should not be receiving public funds. Plain and simple.
It seems Benedict would rather see children without a home at all than to put them in the care of a loving, committed same-sex couple; that he'd rather promote the "Good News" of exclusionary theology than the radical inclusivity of the real Gospel; and chattle on about the "liberating power" of Christ's message while failing to see its applicability to important matters such as this.
A tragedy if ever there was one...
8 years 11 months ago
Well, I agree with you completely, Sensus Fidelium. The Holy Father's comments are especially tragic for gay teen-agers who are often pretty fragile. They don't need to hear that they're unacceptable to God. Why, when the Church ignores so much, are the bishops and priests of England and Wales called to do this? I wish I could use my name, but I cannot.
Claire Mathieu
8 years 11 months ago
It hardly matters since the church has been discredited by the scandal of sexual abuse by clergy, and has lost its moral authority. What the church hierarchy may say is no more than clashing cymbals.
The witness of the church at this point can only come from its actions, not from its words.
Jim McCrea
8 years 11 months ago
“The Pharisees’ sin has come to be called ’scotosis,’ a deliberate and willful darkening of the mind that results from the refusal to acknowledge God’s presence and power at work in human stories. If the neglect of Scripture is a form of sin, John suggests, a blind adherence to Scripture when God is trying to show us the truth in human bodies is also a form of sin, and a far more grievous one. Both our own sense of integrity as Christians, and our hope of entering into positive conversation with those who disagree with us, obligate us to engage Scripture with maximum devotion, love, and intelligence. If it is risky to trust ourselves to the evidence of God at work in transformed lives even when it challenges the clear statements of Scripture, it is a far greater risk to allow the words of Scripture to blind us to the presence and power of the living God.”
Luke Timothy Johnson, Commonweal, June 15, 2007    http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/article.php3?id_article=1957


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