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The Pope has routed his enemies and brought joy to the faithful

The last four days began in anxiety, but ended in euphoria

By on Monday, 20 September 2010

The visit was a personal triumph for the Holy Father himself (Photo: PA)

The visit was a personal triumph for the Holy Father himself (Photo: PA)

How does one sum up the papal visit in a few words? A survey of the four days, event by event – four days which began (so far as I am concerned) in anxiety which quickly turned to relief and ended finally in euphoria – simply can’t be done in less than the length of a short book, and I have only 400 or 500 words for this post, though in the print edition of the paper which appears later this week I shall be given more than double the space for an extended version of it, in which I shall look also at the very interesting coverage of the visit by the secular media. That aspect of the visit will have to be briefly summarised here by the words of Dr George Carey in the News of the World: “he came, he saw, he conquered”.

The richness, volume and sheer variety of the teaching the Pope gave us, and its perfect suitability for each of its many very different audiences, ranging from his intellectually hugely impressive address to the leaders of civil society in Westminster Hall to his call to that enthusiastic audience of schoolchildren to aim at becoming saints, was astonishing. And perhaps the first thing that needs to be said is that this was above all a personal triumph for the Holy Father himself. What came over consistently was the huge warmth, the seemingly inexhaustible loving kindness of the Pope’s gentle but nevertheless powerful personality.  After all the caricatures, the man emerged.

Despite his intellectual impressiveness, which was evident throughout, everyone now knows that this is no withdrawn, scholarly rigorist, incapable of relating to people or understanding their lives: this alleged coldness, it was widely claimed, was what explained the supposed lack of enthusiasm about the visit, even among Catholics.

Well, we will hear no more now about his purported lack of charisma, an assessment invariably followed with a comparison, to Pope Benedict’s disadvantage, with John Paul II. Pope Benedict is, we have now all seen, hugely charismatic: but his charisma is of a different kind, less dramatic, less forcefully energetic than that of Pope John Paul.

Of course; they were always very different men: but Pope Benedict has all the charisma he needs, and in both the senses given by the Oxford Dictionary: 1) “a compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others” and 2) “a divinely conferred power or talent”. For, in the end, let us never forget that what we have witnessed has come from God, whose presence has been very close throughout not only to the Pope himself but also to all who were praying for his success – protecting, inspiring, allaying our fears and in the end fulfilling all our hopes.

  • 51Mihangel

    What impressed me most was the Holy Father's stamina – how could he do so much in so short a time?
    No doubt the economy in what he did and said helped him to sustain the difficult tasks he had to do. He was also so very kind and courteous and one could identify with him not as some distant potentate but as one would one's own parish priest, as a father and friend.

    I especially liked his blessing the statue of Our Lady of the Taper – and hearing my own language Welsh being spoken by Archbishop Regan. Why did he not visit Wales – were we all considered too unworthy by the 'Westminster Worthies' who arranged and managed the visit?

    Even in Bolt's play, A Man for All Seasons, St Thomas rebuke's Rich, who betrayed him, by saying, '..but for Wales' – this English view of Wales as being totally worthless, and the Welsh being unable to manage their own affairs, to have their own Cardinal, to have their own independent parliament, and to speak their own language – is still sadly evident today. One cannot blame the Holy Father that his itinerary did not include a visit to the Welsh capital, as this was arranged by some English persons who still regard Wales as an inferior nation and an inferior people. Why does the Catholic Church allow this racist attitude to exist?

    It was my vocation to come and teach in England and not once when I visited my home in Wales did I hear one word of prayer in Welsh. When I asked the Vicar General then in Tenby why the Our Father at least could not be said in Welsh in every Mass, he replied, ''they don't want it', to which I replied, 'you mean, you don't want it.' Strange indeed for a person who like myself not only said the Our Father in Latin for years but the whole of the Holy Mass.

    Even when I visited Wrexham Cathedral daily when staying with a friend in Rhos. there was not one word of Welsh in any liturgy – no word of Welsh to be anywhere at all. And in Llangollen – how can the Catholic Church be so disrespectful to the Welsh people – weren't we, and aren't we supposed to be a missionary country – where the Catholic Church would seek reconciliation and conversion.

    Even during the German occupation during World War II – Mass was said in French all over France.

    It is time the English occupation of Wales was ended and our language and nation restored to full status within the European Union.

  • Gustav

    “Even during the German occupation during World War II – Mass was said in French all over France.”

    I somewhat doubt that, 51Mihangel, as until the 1960's all masses in the Latin Church were said in Latin. And perhaps we can learn something from that – Latin can really unite people of different nations. We don't need any bickering any more in Belgium between French and Flemish speakers! Think of that! The English and the Welsh can worship together! Time to rethink?

  • pattif

    I can understand your disappointment, 51Mihangel, that the Holy Father did not visit Wales, but I think the reason is to be found in your first sentence, rather than attributed to the Anglocentrism of the organisers. The Holy Fahter does not do long overseas trips, and for him to have packed any more into the four days he was here would have been impossible. I got a bit fed up with the “83-year-old man” comments; his schedule would have flattened someone half his age. That he was able to keep is up is proof, in my opinion, that he is fuelled by the Holy Spirit.

    Personally, I never doubted that the visit would be a success. My only concern was that the oppressive security arrangements (remember the organisers' initial advice to stay home and watch him on the telly?) would prevent large numbers of Catholics from seeing him and hearing him speak. Having had the great good fortune to do both on a number of occasions, I knew that experiencing the real Papa Benedetto would disarm those who only knew him by completely unmerited reputation.

  • Ecce Mater Tua

    I agree 100% with your thoughts here, but would make one distinction. You say “And perhaps the first thing that needs to be said is that this was above all a personal triumph for the Holy Father himself.”, which is true, but more importantly I am sure the Holy Father would say that any success here is due to Christ alone, and our Holy Father's willingness to be used entirely for His service. I thank the Holy Father for his selflessness and deep personal faith in Christ which inspires me toward the same. May God bless us with many more years with our beloved Holy Father, and bless him for his faithfulness.

  • Marie Bell

    How I agree with Gustav! Latin was the universal language. Once, anywhere in the world you could be 'at home' in a Latin Mass, familiar and also in unity with all around you praying together in the language which the Church used, almost from the beginning.

  • Michael Jaffray King

    Having followed the events of the last week end only goes to prove just how powerful (in the Spirit that is), my Church really is..
    The opposition was just feeble and was swept away by the Charm, Humility, Shyness, Unobtrusiveness and just sheer Love of our very own dear B16. Pope Benedict the 16th.
    He for sure was not a compromiser and spoke on all the subjects that would have been dubbed controversial.
    He did not flinch from his responsibilities as a leader of the only really effective group of Christians on this Planet.

  • Brad

    Hi 51Mihangel. Please recall the words of the centurion, which we mimic before receiving communion: “And the centurion making answer, said: Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst enter under my roof: but only say the word, and my servant shall be healed.” Please don't let your human pride flare up that he didn't come to your area. We are all TOTALLY unworthy, no matter who or where we are.

  • Tim Norton

    great story, fully agree!

  • Patricius

    “Even during the German occupation during World War II – Mass was said in French all over France.”

    Funny. It was said in Latin in most parts of the world at that time.

  • Raymond

    Amen !!!! , and God bless us all.

  • Wanda

    The gentle and kind nature of the Pope was evident to all. It is a shame that the first group of people to meet him when he landed in Edinburgh were all men! Not a good example to show that women are valued – but not the Pope's fault – presumably this was someone else's decision, and yes it does matter – it is insensitive – anyone would think women are under represented in the hierarchy of the church, for them to be overlooked!

    Though after all, he did then go to meet the Head of State who IS a woman.

  • Francine1275

    I am saddened by one huge difference between Pope Benedict and John Paul the Great.

    John Paul constantly blessed people; left and right he blessed them! People were important.

    Benedict only raises his arms or waves. “Look at me, World!” HE's important. He imparts his blessing on no one! God is not important; HE is!

    Every photo I see of Benedict has his hands up, as if to say, “Here I am, world! Your world revolves around me!” And, of course, he's always looking away from the photographer, like someone's sneaking up behind him.

    Not so John Paul. His life revolved around us — and it showed! The photographer was important. EVERY person was important because every person was a child of God! And, of course, God was important. He connected! Like Mother Theresa, he walked with his head bowed in humility and he wreaked of holiness!

    The only thing I see in Pope Benedict's bearing is pride.

  • Fdaly

    It is wonderful to see a Catholic writer use his gifts for the good and for the Church. Your post above speaks of such. It is only speaking the truth. We have a wonderful Pope whose sufferings we may not know entirely, but who, through his sufferings, continually gives Easter hope to his flock in the spiritual joy he radiates. A joy which reaches us all across the world. Thank you.

  • Brady

    This is just a stupid joke right?

  • Chris

    What a peculiar comment!

  • LaVallette

    Well if this is not a crass comment, then it is at best very shallow and petty!!!!! The Piopes' gestures of greeting are very human as if meant for each and every individual.

  • Corbus

    Fully agree. One of the most pleasant and un-bellicose routings I have ever seen. More of a disarming than a rout. At my local where I partake of occasional light refreshment one of the more ardent and non-Catholic hostelers raised a glass declaring that “he seems like a really nice geezer” and he was expecting someone “cold and unfriendly”. Perhaps that image portrayed by the UK's pervasive liberal media might be forever dispelled. We'll see.

  • Elenka

    He actually does both. He blesses plenty, you're just not watching carefully.

  • Patricius

    If you look carefully you will see that Pope Benedict's hand gestures are generally small. An interesting comparison could be seen when both he and Rowan Williams were blessing at the end of the service at Westminster Abbey. The difference was like that between two persons' handwriting. Rowan Williams's gesture is vigorous, fairly large and firm. Pope Benedict's is delicate, small and gentle. It seems you would send someone to Hell on the basis of their handwriting. Scary!

  • Jason Liuzza

    Can we please refrain from referring to JPII as “the great”? That title has not been bestowed upon him by Holy Mother Church.

  • Jason Liuzza

    Can we please refrain from referring to JPII as “the great”? That title has not been bestowed upon him by Holy Mother Church.

  • W Oddie

    Rubbish. The raising of his hand in the way he does is his way of blessing; the notion that he is an egotist is utter drivel. His humility is very clear to all those who know him or have met him. “Pride” indeed.

  • MJCarroll

    I love what you have said here. In the 'Hidden Vatican' (BBC4) Cardinal Angelo Comastri says, at the end of this quite brilliant documentary, “that the man who is Pope has to be as translucent as glass so that one doesn't see his light, but the light of Jesus Christ – who is standing behind him.” I can not think of anything more apt to describe what we have witnessed this week, not only as the faithful but also as a nation.

    As for the comparison with JPII, and I may attract some controversy here, but the enduring image of John Paul after 30 years, to non-Catholics, was as a 'rock star' . The stakes have changed in this country over the last 30 years with most people embarrassed to express any spirituality. This country needed to see a serious but 'gentle' man who exuded spirituality from every part of his being – who will ONLY be remembered for shinning the light of God and being a witness to The Truth. May God bless us with many more years with our beloved Holy Father.

  • MJCarroll

    With regard to your following quote – 'I am sure the Holy Father would say that any success here is due to Christ alone, and our Holy Father's willingness to be used entirely for His service'. I couldn't have put it better myself.

  • tradcat

    Yes, the visit has been a success. Even some of my non-Catholic friends were favourable impressed by pope Benedict. We should be proud of our faith and defend it, as Benedict does.

  • Winston Lewis

    Absolute balderdash. JPII was to me the absolute showman, all glitz and no depth just for the moment. He is creditied with the “distrution” of Atheistic communism, but what did he replace it with , if he was ever part of it, Russia is to day a lawless country , he did not repace it with the churchr

  • W Oddie

    Oh, please; let's not get into a competition between these two very great Popes: “all glitz and no depth” is just ridiculous. Pope Benedict is continuing Pope John Paul's project, with the formation of which he had a great deal to do. Both have been very close to God. Both will be raised, surely to the altars as Doctors of the Church.

  • 51Mihangel

    I should have said that Mass was said in French and Latin – the ordinary of

    the Mass would have been in Latin but additional prayers – would have been

    in French and the homily would have been in French. If only I had been able

    to have heard the Mass in Welsh as much as I have heard it in Latin. Not

    once in my trips back home over the last 50 years have I even heard one word

    in Welsh in any Catholic Church.

    Wales was considered a missionary country. What better sign would there be

    for the desire for the conversion of Wales to be expressed on the part of

    the Catholic Church than to have Mass in its own ancestral language?

    At the very least the Pater Noster could be said in Welsh at every Mass -

    that would be a start – to not use Welsh at all in Masses in Wales shows a

    total disrespect for our nation and our culture/ But then when have the

    English ever respected anyone else's culture as equal to our own?

    Even your remarks are deprecatingly arrogant.

    The point I should have made more forcibly that whereas the Europe was

    liberated from Nazi rule some 50+ years ago, and from rule by Russian

    Communism some 20+ years ago, Wales is still occupied by and ruled by the

    English. When Wales is free – the world will be free. I fear the Parousia

    will take place before that happens.

    I asked my Gujurati neighbour what was his experience of the English, and

    his reply was, 'They used to rule half the world, and think they still do.'

    My priest friend from the Congo considers the English to be 'arrogant'.

    A lot more respect for other nations and their cultures would not go amiss

    despite all the insincere rhetoric about ours being a multi-cultural society

    - Let then the English start with Wales – I will believe that we are truly

    in a multi-cultural society when our Welsh language is fully restored. The

    Catholic Church sadly has done little or nothing to advance the cause of the

    Welsh language. An odd attitude in a country it wishes to convert to

    Catholicism – or does it ? It does not look like it.

    When will the Westminster Worthies have a change of heart?


  • 51Mihangel

    I don't consider it unworthy to expect the Holy Father to treat every person of every nation equally as his son and daughters. Equality is at the heart of the Gospel. It is not a matter of human pride but self respect – and more importantly to be respected by others. The English establishment has little or no respect for the Welsh and their culture, or for anyone else's for that matter.

  • 51Mihangel

    That is my point – In England we can all worship together in English – not only the native English but those who come to live here as well – but in Wales not even the Welsh let alone anyone else of other nations living in my country can hear the Mass in Welsh.

    The Catholic Church could have taught everyone Latin – then perhaps Latin may have remained as the language of the Church – I would have had no argument personally with that – except of course that communicating the Gospel message to Non-Catholics in Britain and having the Catholic Church accepted on equal terms with other Christians, would have remained very difficult. I did only two years of Latin in my grammar school as I was obliged to give it up to do physics – science was going to save the world. I was very good at Latin generally top of my class.

    Following the Exodus to Israel from Europe, to unite the disparate displaced Jews coming from all over
    Europe and later from all over the world, the Jewish Scholars developed modern Hebrew as a means of developing and maintaining national identity and unity.

    Who knows, if and when all Christians convert to Catholicism, it may make sense to return to Latin. My concern is not with Latin but the lack of support for the Welsh language, its peoples and its culture by the Catholic Church which is ruled here by the 'Westminster Worthies'.


    Not everyone is worth blessing, Francine. You got to earn it.

  • wanda

    I agree it is not useful to compare Popes and why would you? – for me, Pope Benedict displayed the very essence of fatherly concern and love and I was not especially expecting that to be the case – he is obviously a very kind and gentle man.

  • Eamonn

    I think if the Holy Fathers visit shows us anything it shows us that we are perhaps all a little brainwashed at times even if we try to avoid the negatives that surrounded the visit before it had happened,after however i can say in all honesty i have never felt so moved from deep within that any doubts i myself had had completely vanished,this was indeed an amazing triumph from start to finish and most warming of all was the reaction of the young people towards the Holy Father and the wonderful feeling i had because of their reaction which i didn't expect. God bless the Pope who indeed is a wonderful and charismatic man.

  • Ratbag

    For sure, Michael Jaffray King, our lovely, gracious, radiant Holy Father did not pull any punches in anything he said. I, for one, expected nothing less. He does not disappoint. As one American said: He sure knows how to Pope!

    That sorry excuse for a rentamob, protest the pope, were a sad, bitter and twisted shower!

  • Emmanuel

    The success of Pope Benedict xvi trip to the UK is the outcome of worldwide paryer to the Almighty and His Son and the intercession of His Mother.

    The way he has handled the recent scourge of child abuse by the Catholic clergy,and the way the Faithful in the UK and the English people in general took this, is in itself a success story that the British Press most of whom were reporting dismal predictionsof the trip flopping,will not be able to deny.

    Surely and certainly,the finger of God is there in this success script and thank You Father and thank You Jesus for this unique and phenominal success of the Papal trip to the U K..

    Emmanuel Jude,Chennai, INDIA

  • Kevin Greenan

    One great message came from the visit of the Holy Father – the message is to the Bishops Conference. We, the laity, ignored the hysterical anti visit campaign and your negative leadership, From a PR point of view our bishops did not do a good job. Initially we were urged to stay at home and watch the Papal visit on television. The laity ignored all and as we all saw, packed the streets. Maybe an era of 'trust the laity a bit more' might come out of these four glorious days.