Pope Benedict XVI invoked the dictatorship of relativism in his homily at the Mass in Bellahouston Park in Scotland today.
Addressing a packed park filled with Scottish Catholics, Pope Benedict returned to a theme that has marked his papacy from the beginning, the “dictatorship of relativism” which “threatens to obscure the unchanging truth about man’s nature, his destiny and his ultimate good”.
He continued: “There are some who now seek to exclude religious belief from public discourse, to privatise it or even to paint it as a threat to equality and liberty. Yet religion is in fact a guarantee of authentic liberty and respect, leading us to look upon every person as a brother or sister.”
In his speech to the Queen earlier today, Pope Benedict spoke about aggressive forms of secularism, a theme to which he has returned more explicitly this evening.
Veteran Vatican watcher John Allen Jr said it was clear that the “battle against a secular ‘dictatorship of relativism’ would be Benedict XVI’s top priority” during his visit to Britain.
“What effect Benedict’s appeal may have remains to be seen,” Mr Allen wrote. “But he’s inarguably chosen a fitting place to launch it.”
Calling on Catholic professionals, politicians and teachers to use their talents and experience in the service of the faith, Pope Benedict said: “For this reason I appeal in particular to you, the lay faithful, in accordance with your baptismal calling and mission, not only to be examples of faith in public, but also to put the case for the promotion of faith’s wisdom and vision in the public forum.
“Society today needs clear voices which propose our right to live, not in a jungle of self-destructive and arbitrary freedoms, but in a society which works for the true welfare of its citizens and offers them guidance and protection in the face of their weakness and fragility. Do not be afraid to take up this service to your brothers and sisters, and to the future of your beloved nation.”
Presenting Christ as the antithesis of the culture of relativism, Pope Benedict saved his strongest words for young people. He urged them to lead lives worthy of God and of themselves.
“There are many temptations placed before you every day – drugs, money, sex, pornography, alcohol,” he said. “Which the world tells you will bring you happiness, yet these things are destructive and divisive.”
The Holy Father said: “There is only one thing which lasts: the love of Jesus Christ personally for each one of you. Search for him, know him and love him, and he will set you free from slavery to the glittering but superficial existence frequently proposed by today’s society.
“Put aside what is worthless and learn of your own dignity as children of God. In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks us to pray for vocations: I pray that many of you will know and love Jesus Christ and, through that encounter, will dedicate yourselves completely to God, especially those of you who are called to the priesthood and religious life. This is the challenge the Lord gives to you today: the Church now belongs to you! “
He also drew attention to St Ninian, a Scottish saint whose mission church in Galloway was the centre of evangelisation, and mentioned the patron saint of Glasgow, St Mungo, as well as St Columba and St Margaret, who “laboured over centuries to hand down the faith”.
He addressed the bishops of Scotland and reminded them of their pastoral duties to their priests and their sanctification. He called on them to “live to the full the charity that flows from Christ, in your brotherly ministry towards your priests, collaborating with them all, and in particular with those who have little contact with their fellow priests. Pray with them for vocations, that the Lord of the harvest will send labourers to his harvest.”
When the Popemobile arrived the crowds screamed and cheered for the Holy Father, pressing against the barriers. He blessed children before greeting Scottish Catholics.
One pilgrim, Claz Gomez, tweeted: “Oh my wonder. I just cried seeing my beloved Pope Benedict so close in his Popemobile.”
The Mass introduced the English-speaking world to the new translation of the Missal, which was used in the newly composed settings by Scottish composer James MacMillan.
Mr MacMillan said: “The Gloria is a huge raising of hearts to Heaven, a great joyous outburst from the very early days of the Church.”
Pope Benedict first used the phrase, “dictatorship of relativism” before the 2005 papal conclave, when the College of Cardinals was assembling to elect the next pope.
At the time he said: “Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be “tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine”, seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognise anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires.”
Lucy Henson, a pilgrim at the Mass, said: “The atmosphere was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. The Holy Father was incredibly charismatic, and from the moment he arrived it was as if the air was charged with electricity; everyone there was so excited and keyed up. It takes someone very special to hush a 70,000-strong crowd who were clapping and cheering moments before, but he managed to celebrate a Mass that was, at times, very solemn and prayerful.
“All of our group, including a few students, some mature students, one of the chaplains, and some staff members, really enjoyed the music, even though we have vastly differing tastes usually. The organisers had created a great blend of modern and traditional hymns, and the new Mass setting was fantastic and pretty easy to pick up. We did think, however, that some of the music on the CD included in the pilgrim pack sounded like it belonged in a Japanese video game rather than next to a beautiful setting of Panis Angelicus!
“Of course, we can’t ignore the fact that Susan Boyle also sang, and the congregation was almost hysterical with joy over her voice, which is even more powerful in person than on TV.
“All in all, it was a wonderful day, and I’d say it was an excellent start to the Holy Father’s visit, which I hope continues to go well.”