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Benedict XVI exposed the heart of the Catholic faith

We owe him our deepest gratitude. His visit was as great a success as that of John Paul II in 1982

By on Thursday, 23 September 2010

Pope Benedict was an example to priests in showing how the Mass can be gloriously celebrated (PA: Photo)

Pope Benedict was an example to priests in showing how the Mass can be gloriously celebrated (PA: Photo)

The first reaction of Catholics to the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to these shores must be to thank God for its extraordinary success. By the end of the triumphant first day in Scotland, it was clear that the British people were in a mood to listen to the Pope, and that excitement at his presence was bursting out in the most unlikely places. As our guest flew to London, Catholics prayed that the momentum could be sustained. In the event, it was not just sustained but continued to build. Every occasion added new significance to the visit.

In Westminster Hall, the Holy Father asked searching questions that exposed the emptiness of secularism. In Westminster Abbey, his presence seemed to revitalise that ancient building – and his Anglican listeners, too, as they realised how much their Christian witness is valued by the successor of St Peter. In Westminster Cathedral, the Pope acknowledged clearly and with shame the dreadful acts committed by clergy and religious against children; he had done so before, but his decision to do so in the context of a solemn liturgy underlined the abominable insult to the sacrifice of Christ represented by those crimes. In Hyde Park, the Pope literally exposed the heart of the Catholic faith to crowds of thousands and a television audience of millions: very deliberately, he directed our attention away from himself and towards the Blessed Sacrament. In Birmingham, he beatified John Henry Newman, personally raising to the altars a son of the Church for the first time in his pontificate. In doing so, he quoted Blessed Cardinal Newman: “I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it.”

By this visit Benedict XVI equipped us to become that laity. He was an example to priests, too, in showing how the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite can be gloriously celebrated. How fitting it would be if, from now on, priests everywhere were to follow the Holy Father’s example of facing a crucifix at Mass, thus properly orientating the celebrant towards Calvary. And, crucially, the Pope set a further example to non-believers, of a great religious leader who radiated love, communicated by his winning little smile as well as by his words. From now on, militant secularists will find it very hard to sustain their odious caricature of Joseph Ratzinger: these were a terrible four days for anti-Catholicism.

We offer our heartfelt thanks to the Catholic organisers of the visit, and also to the Queen and her Government for their hospitality: given the immense difficulties that threatened to derail everything, truly we can say that victory was snatched from the jaws of defeat. But the person who deserves our deepest gratitude is Pope Benedict, who ensured that this visit was – albeit in a very different way – as great a success as that of Pope John Paul II in 1982. Holy Father, we are missing you already.

  • Ratbag

    Oh, I soooooo echo this article! Soooooo echo it! Why isn't there any more feedback? Why on earth am I the first one on? Oh, well, here's my two-pennies worth…

    Firstly, indeed it was a terrible four days for the anti-Catholic brigade. But, by 'eck, what a stupendous, fabulous four days it was for the rest of us!!!!!

    As for those crest-fallen anti-pop individuals: Am I bothered? Am I bothered, though? Am I heckers like! I couldn't give a chocolate-coated flying fig roll for them! For the past few months or so, on this Catholic website, I and several others have had to literally sharpen our wits to the quick to fight against all the playground bullying, glaring examples of superiority complex, unapologetic vitriol and the liberally spread excrement they attempted to splash like rude graffiti across these pages… all in the name of 'civilised discussion'. Civilised discussion????? They brought it to another level, folks – lower than pond life level (apologies for insulting pond life – you didn't deserve that. Sorry!)

    One of these people had the brass neck to write on one of these forums that he was hoping to 'reach' us? Such narcissism. Where are they now? Ah, the tumbleweed had the sound turned down in their vacuous brains whilst they were mouthing off…now we can hear it whoosh across their path. It's a beautiful noise.

    Boy, we needed you here, Your Holiness – we underestimated just how much until you stepped off the plane at Edinburgh Airport!

    I've always loved watching Pope Benedict XVI on EWTN and online – from his Angelus and Urbi et Orbi to when he celebrates Holy Mass. If he could run masterclasses on how to celebrate Mass, he'd be oversubscribed several times over! He puts everything – I mean EVERYTHING! – into it. He melts into Christ's presence and we melt along with him! The Pope is careful not to be the centre of attention because he knows Who should be and rightly IS! When I was at Cofton Park (I had watched live coverage of his State Visit on the telly up until then), it was such an honour and privilege to be at the Beatification Mass. I was glued to it! I, for one, being brought up on the post Vatican II liturgy, rarely had the opportunity to hear Mass in the Ordinary Form. When the Mass was over and the Holy Father left, I asked myself these questions: Why can't Mass be celebrated like this? Why can't we HAVE Mass like this? What the heck is stopping us? Then I asked Christ Himself… the answer may come in time…

    Pope Benedict XVI has given us so much and keeps giving like the kind and generous Holy Father he is. Let us give something back to him, the Church and to Christ after these momentous days.

  • Ratbag

    Yes, OK, I hold my hands up – the 'anti-pop' brigade should read 'anti-pope' brigade!