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Scotland has done us all proud; suddenly the anti-Catholic campaign has lost its power

The papal chemistry is still active on British soil; now, we can relax and enjoy the visit

By on Friday, 17 September 2010

Scotland, rightly declared Alex Salmond, has done the Pope proud; he added, also truly, that Scotland had “done itself proud”, too. And that was while the Pope was still in Edinburgh, before that great and wonderful Carnival of the Faith at Bellahouston park.

Would the first day have been the success it was if it had taken place in England? Would the papal chemistry have worked so soon in London, that vast and engulfing megalopolis, if the reception by Her Majesty had taken place in the impersonal splendours of Buckingham palace rather than in that ancient architectural wonder Holyrood house (whose very stones are a testimony to its Catholic origins) and if the Popemobile ride through the streets afterwards had been down the Mall?

I just don’t know: but that magnificent city Edinburgh was somehow on just the right scale. Halfway down Princes Street, it was clear that all the last minute attempts to wreck the visit had failed; the sheer warmth of that Scottish welcome had swept all that away. There were some splendid touches; Cardinal O’Brien’s production of a load of scarves in the specially commissioned Papal tartan was a brilliant idea, as was the very notion of a Papal tartan; and to drape a scarf over the Pope’s shoulders, so that he rode through the streets clad in tartan (the wearing of which, remember, was made illegal after the final defeat of attempts to place a Catholic pretender on the throne) was a stroke of historical genius.

Part of the success of the day, it has to be said, was that the BBC was at its excellent best (and not at its infuriating worst). As Stuart Reid wrote in his blog yesterday: “Jim Naughtie on the Today programme this morning was almost Dimblebyian in his gravity and respect.” The same was true later in the day, with his coverage of the meeting of the Pope and the Queen (who as always rose wonderfully to the occasion); and while we are about it, Peter Stanford, who was regally seated with other experts at Holyrood to give his views from time to time, also did us all proud, and as a fellow holder of that hallowed title “former editor of The Catholic Herald” I salute his statesmanlike performance.

I was right, though, in my rather anxious blog yesterday (written when the Pope was still on his way to Edinburgh). I repeated my belief that all the media attempts to “overshadow” the visit would be swept away by the visit itself, but said that it was clear that they would continue. I was right: the Guardian and the Independent are still at it (the latter organ even described the Pope’s visit as “Mission Improbable” this morning: what planet do these people live on?).

But somehow, the anti-Catholic campaign has lost its power to distort and to dismay. The things that do matter about the Church have come firmly to the fore. The papal chemistry is still active; the Pope’s huge integrity and the great sweetness of his gentle but powerful personality have established themselves in the minds of anyone who has spent five minutes watching the coverage; the rock which is Peter has emerged clearly from the fog, firm in all its ancient splendour: and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.

  • Nicola Hanssen

    I was so proud to be Catholic yesterday and sad that I hadn't taken the day off to attend but even watching the mass has helped to renew my faith and I pray for all those who have been moved in spirit to go forth and bear fruit.

    Nicola Hanssen

  • Corbus

    Hear Hear. What a marvellous bit of luck that the visit was organised at the time of her Majesty's residency.

    You are absolutely right about London having the potential to swallow up the visit. The communal spirit of Scotland still lives, though more formal than '82, it has expressed itself in a genuine form and heartfelt form… the Bellahouston Park celebration was wonderful. Now we must pray that the itinerary doesn't darken south of the border. I expect more big crowds in Birmingham, and just as much cheer and expectation.

  • Bill

    Thank you Scotland for your hospitality for our Holiness the Pope and show of your faith. The world has watched the wonderful atmosphere and moving mass at Bellahouston. The enemies of our Catholic faith on these Isles are now ashamed and the good British people are shunning them and we will resist them and prevail. May God bless us and continue to strengthen our faith during this visit in solidarity with the church worldwide.

  • witness2hope

    Thank you Scotland, 'twas beautiful watching you all celebrate Mass with Papa Benedict via live internet video (hailing from U.S.)

    God bless!!

  • AHerniman

    Well said Nicola! As a primary school teacher in a Catholic school in Bristol, with all my class of 8-9 year-olds watching the Pope's arrival and day in Edinburgh (most Catholic, some Protestant and Muslim), my heart was gladened and my faith strengthened, too, by the reseptionj Scotland gave him – what a wonderful nation (especially the lads and lasses flying Vatican flags out of their tenements in the background of the mass in Glasgow!). The children at school have been really excited by his Holiness' visit, and so far it has been a wonderfully moving opportunity for reflection and prayer. Veni Sancte Spiritus!

  • Dr.T

    I saw Pope John Paul in Manila many years ago and all I can remember is how touching his presence was!

    There was an indescribable peace and aura of genuine holiness and love that even the most ardent secularist

    or atheistic fiber could be softened…This time around Pope Benedict managed to disarm and sooth the angst

    and perhaps grant the wishful longing of disbelievers to be touched by his gentle persona and brilliant presentation of the authentic message of the gospel.Truly, he is a man of God worth believing and emulating.

  • Corbus

    Well, as it turns out both the London and Birmingham trips have been wonderful wonderful successes. I hope the Pope feels that he has been warmly welcomed and that Catholicism is alive and kicking still in the UK, despite all the bickering and internal politics. He has successfully delivered the Magisterium in a digestible manner to ordinary Catholic volk! Te Deum Laudemus

  • Maricruz Tasies

    the rock which is Peter has emerged firm in all its ancient splendour

  • Paul Miki

    Long live the Pope.yesterday as many crowds were protesting the Popes trip in central London,I read a comment posted in the media that ” THE END OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH” and this is due to number of cases of clerical sex abuse,on my side I see that the church is undergoing PURIFICATION shame to those who in their narrow mind and ignorant in faith think that one day the Catholic church will come to an end,IT WILL NEVER FOR SHURE,JESUS SAID THE DOORS OF NETHER WORLD WILL NOT DEFEAT THE CHURCH,we pray for our Priests to live a holier life and to have fidelity in their commitment,the LIAR, the devil is using these scandals to tell the world that he wins,but WE AS THE LAY FAITHFUL HAVE A VERY VERY DEEP FAITH IN CHRIST AND HIS CHURCH,May God bless our Pope,Amen

  • mollysdad

    The bagpipes did their bit too, as the only sound in Scotland capable of drowning out Ian Paisley.

  • Mrgrtwoods439

    I have lived in England for 38 years, being born and bred in Scotland. I was enraptured by the scottish welcome to his holiness.