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Papal Visit 2010: a round-up of reactions

By on Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Pope Benedict XVI at Cofton Park on Sunday (Photo: PA)

Pope Benedict XVI at Cofton Park on Sunday (Photo: PA)

Fr Christopher Jamison, former Abbot of Worth:

There were two high points – from the perspective of the state visit the event in Westminster Hall was memorable for the depth of the Holy Father’s insight and for the warmth of the reception from the British parliamentarians present.

This was a great compliment to Britain in its ability to welcome a religious voice on to the public stage. The Prime Minister’s words at the airport confirmed how his words had struck a chord.

Secondly from the pastoral point of view the beatification of Cardinal Newman has brought to the attention of many people a great Englishman whose memory will now be celebrated in new ways.

Finally the sheer volume of people on the streets both in Edinburgh and London meant that more than half a million people saw the Pope in person and this demonstration of public support has deeply touched the Holy Father and the entire delegation from the Holy See.

Chris Patten:

I hope the visit will make us think deeper about the sort of society we live in and want to live in. I hope it will make us think more about our social responsibilities. I hope it will make us realise we need a serious dialogue between religious and secular groups.

I hope it will give people of all faiths more self-confidence to stand up for themselves and to make the point that faith matters to society.

Archbishop Patrick Kelly of Liverpool:

“A television interviewer said to me on Sunday ‘You look absolutely radiant’. And that’s been my reaction to four incredible days, which really couldn’t have gone better.”

“We went through such negative publicity before the start of the visit – although not from our local media – but all this negativity has been proved completely wrong.”

“All the cynicism and the negativity has been swept aside by ordinary people – mass gatherings which represented a cross-section of our society, rather than just one group.”

Bishop Crispian Hollis of Portsmouth:

We were all tired at the end of the four days but our weariness can have been nothing compared with that of the Holy Father, who showed remarkable stamina and spirit – and gentle love – throughout the visit.

He has given us all – the Catholic community as well as the nation – much food for thought and much encouragement. He has confirmed us in our faith and we could not have asked for more.

These have been extraordinary blessed days for us all, so let us give heartfelt thanks to the Lord.

Dominic Lawson, columnist and former Sunday Telegraph editor:

Satire apart, I suspect the Pope’s gentle manner and even his very evident physical frailty really did play a part in a reversal of rhetoric by what one might describe as the anti-clerical press. When someone is conjured up as a monster (or “a leering old villain in a frock”, as Richard Dawkins put it) and emerges as a modest scholarly figure visibly ill at ease with the political bombast of a state visit, the opinion-formers sense that their readers will want a more gentle tone.


The Pontiff’s taking of tea with a Queen whose coronation oaths swore her to defend “the Protestant reformed religion established by law” is quite something.


The Pope’s visit to Britain has demonstrated the abiding strength of Christianity within this nation.

Our hope is that it will act as a reminder that there is a space and a voice for religion in public life – and prompts those of all faiths to find the courage to push back the secularists, and proclaim their beliefs with pride.

Joanna Bogle, author and blogger:

It has been a triumph! In London, history was made as the Pope spoke in Westminster Hall, addressing a gathering that included Members of Parliament, leading figures in public life, and representatives of the nation’s charities, church organisations, and community groups. As he arrived, trumpets were sounded; the trumpeters standing in the niches of the great stained-glass window through which radiant light pours into the great medieval hall. The arches of the great hammerbeam roof have echoed to the great events of British history, notably the trial of St Thomas More, the most significant event of the reign of King Henry VIII.

As long as I live, I will never forget these days. To be in Westminster Hall, where history is written into every inch of the stone-flagged floor and rounded Norman arches, listening to the successor of St Peter speak, was thrilling. To follow this with joyful prayer with young Catholics in the heart of London was glorious, and to stand singing John Henry Newman’s wonderful hymns on an English hillside at a papal Mass was beyond glorious.

Raymond Arroyo, EWTN presenter:

Benedict’s visit was a stand against relativism in the heart of Europe and a plea for Britain to return to herself – to return to her Catholic roots. In a visit worthy of his predecessor, Pope Benedict, with precise language and symbols, communicated a message that will long be felt in England. It was a message controversial and reasonable, bold, and utterly faithful – a simple call, really: England, come home to what you were, and truly are.

Max Clifford, publicist:

Overall, it was a very good thing that he made such a public apology over the child sexual abuse activities. That is something that has been doing huge damage to the Roman Catholic Church.

I think he got better coverage in the British media than I expected. In the build-up to the visit there was far more criticism than praise and then after he arrived far more praise than criticism. The pluses far outweighed the minuses.

From a PR perspective there is a huge amount that needs to be done, but the visit was a success – far more a success than I thought it might have been.

Fr Patrick Daly, priest at St Peter and St Paul church, Wolverhampton

I was at the Mass in Cofton Park yesterday and I found it very uplifting and I have spoken to some of my parishioners who went and they too enjoyed it greatly and thought it was well worth getting up early to go to. The feedback was very positive.

I thought the BBC’s generous and fair-minded coverage helped people come close to a very warm and affectionate Pope Benedict XVI. The English are rather reserved by nature so that reserve (which he has) will have appealed to them.

We are living in a very different world to that of the papal visit of 28 years ago. A lot has changed but the size of the crowds and the warmth of the welcome was I think better than had been expected.

Rather than tackle child abuse he raised it and apologised.

Other issues he raised were the place of religion in public discourse in this country. It was a fair point but I would have thought religion is given a fair innings from the British media.

Brendan O’Neill, editor of Spiked:

Shrill, decadent, profoundly illiberal in sentiment, this protest confirmed what the pope has become for at-sea secularists: an Emmanuel Goldstein figure, who allows them to get their moralistic rocks off.

I’ve said it before and no doubt I’ll have to say it again in the future: I don’t agree with anything that the pope says. But I come from the kind of humanist tradition where, even when that is the case, you will still defend to the death his right to say it.

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society:

The one positive thing that this visit has brought to us is a stirring of the secular conscience.

The indifference that usually greets religion in this country (and polls before he arrived showed that the lack of interest extended to the Pope) turned into unease at the portrayal of those who want to live without religion as “aggressive” and in some way antipathetic to the good of the country.

Subsequently, 20,000 people turned out in the streets to show the Pope that they will not be dismissed as enemies of society simply because they do not agree with him.

I think the Pope may have unleashed a movement for a legal secularisation in this country that he will come to regret.

  • Jonathan Misdroy

    I read Terry Sanderson's comments and a chill ran down my spine. The way this man talks is so spiteful and so full of hatred you do wonder about him. It would be silly to look down on atheists, there are plenty of good people not believing in God, but the Sandersons, Tatchells and Dawkins of this world will only confirm the feeling among Catholics that they are on the right side.

  • lokionline

    I read Terry Sanderson's comments and a sense of inevitability pervades. The progress toward a fully secular society would appear inexorable. This is a society where the voice of all religious and non-religious organizations is heard, no-one is censored but the people make the choices . The Pope's call for the voice of Christians and Catholics to be heard in the public arena is perfectly reasonable and should be applauded. As long as every group has a voice but no group has unfair access to the levers of power, we should all get along.

    Now that we have established that we are all essentially on the same page when it comes to fairness, and free speech and what constitutes a liberal democracy, would it be impolite to point out that the Roman Catholic Church still refuses to release the files they hold concerning child abuse by clerics?


  • Georg_Misdroy

    It is of course not inpolite to ask but it makes me wonder why these files are so urgently sought. Handing over these files is not going to make any act of abuse undone. It also does not help to understand the offenders any better. If any files of any sort are handed over there is always scope for embarassment for anybody working at them. If I handed over any file that I am working on (and I am not employed by the Church and do not work on abuse cases) anybody who wanted to find something would find something to criticize. This is not because my work is bad but it is because if one does any kind of work it is difficult to achieve perfection.

    Now, if the so-called abuse files were handed over (and it may well appear be that in many cases such files do not even exist as the Vatican was only the central authority for abuse since 2001) it would not be a case of serious historians looking at them to check them carefully. It would be the NSS and other anti-Catholic organisations starting a feast of slaughter within five minutes. “Oh, Cardinal x has known about this case of abuse since October 1997 but he only reacted in November 1997 etc”. The guilt of the Vatican and anybody working there is quite clear for these organisations, they don't need any files for that. They are only looking for ammunition to dwell on for the next fifty years. This is why it is not even worth a discusion about handing over any files. It is – this is not personal against you, lokionline – a hypocritical demand and it is made with the sole aim to embarass the Church.

    The British government would also not hand over any file on abuse cases that have happened in the UK since the 1960s (and no need to say the NSS does not ask for them – it is just not the right kind of child abuse for them). Why on earth should the Vatican?

    Also, I wonder whether the NSS or these other organisations would be happy to hand over all THEIR files.

    I understand for example that some people holding a Vatican flag were booed and had their flag taken away at the “Nope the Pope” demo. Now I would want to know whether there were instructions from the NSS to do that. If not (but please let me see the files for that), at least I would like to know whether the NSS and the other organisations had taken adequate safeguards that such acts of aggression would not happen. Please let me have the files to see whether such safeguards have been taken. After all these organisations claim to be for religious freedom.

    Furthermore, I would like to know more about Peter Tatchell's dealings with Channel Four. He gets to make a documentary about the Pope which is sensationally onedimensional. On top of that he was also interviewed by Channel Four News as an “expert” on the Pope as if he was some neutral. No doubt, he gets paid for that. Channel Four is ultimately publicly owned so I want to know more about it and demand immediate release of all files and contracts, including receipts, between Channel Four and Peter Tatchell.

    Lastly, I want to know whether there are instructions by the NSS and these other organisations to hijack the website of the Catholic Herald. Anybody is free to comment on these pages of course but there seem to be so many comments by secularists recently that I suspect a pattern. I want to see all the files of recent board meetings, telephone conferences, emails of the NSS and other organisations to find out whether there are instructions or there is encouragement to that extent.

    Do you see what I am getting at?

    I am not opposed to atheists. I don't think I am a better person because I am Catholic and somebody else is an atheist. I was an atheist myself (well, let us say an agnostic) until a few years ago. But I RESENT the hostility against the Catholic Church by atheists and this hostility is also embodied in the claim for these mysterious files.

  • __A_YAHOO_USER__

    I think Terry Sanderson regrets the Holy Father's visit more than anyone involved.

  • David Morton

    Terry Sanderson's comment appears to be a response to Brendan O'Neills roughing up of the secular humanists in his excellent article on the protest the pope march in “Spiked”. Clearly, it seriously hurt Sanderson's ego to have a dressing down by a brilliant atheist such as O'Neill. 20,000 protesters, mmm I don't think so, either way it is a drop in the ocean…

  • Dcruz

    The popes visit to the U.K has really brought christianity in focus.