Friday, 17 September 2010

P+1: Lambeth Palace and the Palace of Westminster

I was half planning to go up to London to be at Westminster. Decided that was to risk physical exhaustion by Sunday morning (I will be in London tomorrow afternoon). So ...

I have just watched (on the Papal Visit live webstream) Pope Benedict's visit to Lambeth Palace, and the exchange of addresses by Archbishop Rowan Williams and the Holy Father.

I was really impressed by what Archbishop Williams chose to say. His willingness to stand full square in support of the Pope's contributions with regard to the state of the "soul" of Europe I thought was tremendous. And to quote from Pope Benedict's first homily as Pope, words which I remember hearing "live" again in Cologne... (will post them when I find the text of the address). I have yet to fully analyse Pope Benedict's own address.

Currently about to watch the drive from Lambeth Palace to Westminster ..

Arriving ....

I think that the reception given to Pope Benedict by the audience in Westminster Hall was genuinely warm - both the applause before he spoke and the applause after he spoke I thought was much, much warmer than the "polite". Pope Benedict was, I thought, most courteous in his understanding of Britain's parliamentary tradition.

Things I liked:
the way in which Pope Benedict cited the example of the abolition of the slave trade as something to Britain's credit - and as an example of a political activity rooted in an ethical basis

the way in which Pope Benedict referred to the widespread recognition that the origin of the financial crisis lay in an economic activity that lacked an ethical basis

the way in which Pope Benedict not only cited the example of St Thomas More, but pointed out that the challenge faced by St Thomas More still arises in life today, that of the right balance between Caesar and God

the way in which Pope Benedict talked about the need for dialogue between the realms of "secular reason" and those of religious faith - reason here being a key word

the clarity, yet courtesy, of the way in which Pope Benedict raised controversial points: that religious faiths, in their participation in public life and contributing to the good of society should be allowed to act in accordance with conscience, in freedom, and in obedience to the official teaching of their religion

the contribution of the Speaker of the House of Commons, which recognised the differences between some of the legislative action of Parliament and the teaching of the Church, but nevertheless extended a genuine welcome to Pope Benedict

the vote of thanks from the Leader of the House of Lords, speaking without notes and clearly responding to Pope Benedict's address, which showed a genuine appreciation of what the Holy Father had said [the look on Pope Benedict's face, and his instinct to stand up to shake her hand, showed just how much he appreciated this, and recognised how well it showed understanding of his own address]

the way in which the audience applauded Pope Benedict the whole length of Westminster Hall as he made his way down the aisle among them, pausing at the point at which St Thomas More was condemned

After all the unpleasantness that has been directed at the Catholic Church in general and Pope Benedict in particular, this whole occasion showed a most encouraging appreciation by those in British public life of the person of Pope Benedict and of his contribution to genuine dialogue.
My judgement: a triumph, not just for Pope Benedict, but for the Parliament of the United Kingdom. I think it is an occasion which will provide much cause for reflection. I will certainly study the texts of the addresses involved.

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