ZENIT are reporting the Tablet's reporting of a survey undertaken in the UK ahead of the visit by Pope Benedict XVI.
From a Catholic point of view, there are some encouraging aspects to the poll. The results do, for example, suggest that the vitriolic antipathy of such as the Protest the Pope coalition is not reflected among ordinary members of the population, and that the media attention it might gain is disproportionate to the level of real support that such views have.
That something like one in five of the general population as a whole look as if they will follow the Papal visit is also an encouraging statistic.
One of the most interesting results is the response to a question about the Christian culture that forms a part of the history of the United Kingdom, though it does need to be treated with some caution. Some 76% of the general population responded to say that they thought the United Kingdom should retain its Christian culture. It is worth looking at the seventh slide of the Tablet's reporting, to see the wording of this question and the related question about the Catholic Church's strong moral views. The question is one about Christian culture, and not about Christian beliefs - so one should not draw too strong a conclusion in favour of an influence of Christian beliefs in public life from this response. The significance perhaps lies more in the defining of UK culture as Christian over and against other, possibly religious or possibly secular, cultures. But even with his caution attached to it, the response is interesting in the view of the secularisation of our culture as it is manifested in the media. But the most interesting question on this slide is that about the value of the Catholic Church's strong moral beliefs. That nearly half the general population are indicated as finding this at least a "tend to agree" suggests an acceptance of the place of the Church in public life when she teaches on moral questions, though this is clearly not to say that those "tending to agree" thereby all agree with what is taught. I think the implications of this response are interesting.
A final thought on the question about support for the Papal visit, on slide 2 of the Tablet's reporting. With nearly two thirds of the general population neither opposing nor supporting the Papal visit, one recognises that the vitriol and misrepresentation of such as Protest the Pope coalition is not shared by the people of the UK as a whole. This is encouraging. However, it also suggests that many of those 63% may feel that they do not have what one might call a "stake" in the Papal visit (only 20% or so intend following the visit via the media). From the Catholic point of view, this is less encouraging and might give us cause for thought in the coming two weeks.
PS: School term starts on Monday, but when I was at school one morning this week I had my first conversation with a colleague about the Papal visit. I am sure more conversations will follow.