On the still-enduring-yet-increasingly-ridiculous nickname:
I'm curious to know how many state visits it will take -- how many meetings with abuse victims, how many World Youth Days, how many photo ops like this -- before people stop trotting out the Rottweiler line, as if he has suddenly undergone some radical transformation, and state the obvious: Pope Benedict is a "shy," "warm," "lovable, elderly figure." It's not some act he's putting on to win over crowds; anyone who has been paying attention would know that -- as the massive crowds who turned out for his visit can attest.
Yes, Benedict had a reputation (unfair even then) as the Church's watchdog -- ten years ago. He's now been pope for five. It's not like he's been hiding under a rock all that time, and this is some shocking new character development. Can we please come up with some new headlines?
On the reason for Catholic love of the Pope (not Benedict XVI--of the Pope):
Catholics do not — should not, must not — look to the Vatican to supply the church with all its saints and visionaries and prophets. (Indeed, many of Catholicism’s greatest figures have had fraught relationships with the Holy See — including John Henry Newman, the man beatified on Sunday.) They look to Rome instead to safeguard what those visionaries achieved, to guard Catholicism’s inheritance, and provide a symbol of unity for a far-flung, billion-member church. They look to Rome for the long view: for the wisdom that not all change is for the better, and that some revolutions are better outlasted than accepted.
On Saturday, Benedict addressed Britain’s politicians in the very hall where Sir Thomas More, the great Catholic martyr, was condemned to death for opposing the reformation of Henry VIII. It was an extraordinary moment, and a reminder of the resilience of Catholicism, across a gulf of years that’s consumed thrones, nations, entire civilizations.
This, above all, is why the crowds cheered for the pope, in Edinburgh and London and Birmingham — because almost five centuries after the Catholic faith was apparently strangled in Britain, their church is still alive.On his call to the laity in Britain:
...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...
An interesting overview of the trip:
...It was certainly not the most auspicious beginning of a papal journey. But speaking to reporters on his plane en route to Edinburgh, Pope Benedict said he was not concerned about reports that a cool reception awaited him. “I must admit that I am not worried,” he said, noting that similar negative predictions of likely disaster were made in the run-up to his visits to France in 2008 and the Czech Republic last year. “All Western countries have, each one in its own way, strong anticlerical and anti-Catholic opinions, but they also have a strong presence of the faith,” he said. He said in Britain there was also “a great history of tolerance” and so he was making his visit “in good spirits and with joy”.
As it turned out, the Pope’s intuitions were right on target. From his arrival in Scotland onwards, the Pope was given a warm reception at every event he attended. He and his entourage were particularly surprised and delighted by the sustained and thunderous ovation that accompanied him into and out of Westminster Hall for his keynote address of the visit. And they marvelled that so many people had spontaneously turned up along The Mall in central London to see him make his way to the Saturday prayer vigil in Hyde Park.
Conversely, this was the first foreign journey in his five-and-a-half year pontificate when Benedict XVI was met with significant protests. While a few placard-carrying hecklers turned up at most venues of the visit, the most significant event by far was Saturday’s “Protest the Pope” rally that saw several thousand people march through central London. However, the Protest the Pope marchers were outnumbered 45:1 by the Hyde Park prayer vigil pilgrims and people on The Mall combined.
What was noticeably more significant was the extent to which Pope Benedict not only spoke at events but also listened. This was particularly the case in London.
The British organisers from both Church and state also ensured that the Pope witnessed a cross-section of the nation’s rich and complex tapestry of religious, secular and political culture.
The festive gathering with students and teachers at St Mary’s University College, Strawberry Hill, on 17 September was one of the best examples of the Catholic Church in Britain on display, affording the Pope time to see the character of Catholic schooling as well as speak himself. Also held at Strawberry Hill was the meeting with representatives of other faiths where talks by Archbishop Patrick Kelly, the Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks and Dr Khaled Azzam, chief executive of the Prince’s School for Traditional Arts, actually occupied more of the programme than the Pope’s address.
At Westminster Hall, where Vatican officials stressed that Pope Benedict’s address was one of his most important to date, the introduction by House of Commons Speaker John Bercow and the post-address appreciation by House of Lords Speaker Baroness Hayman both highlighted how the business of democracy and governance is done the British way. The Prime Minister’s words at the farewell ceremony in Birmingham were an additional voice to this particular chorus.
Pope Benedict was well aware that his own words would have a resonance far beyond Britain and would reach what he called, “the two billion members of the Commonwealth and the great family of English-speaking nations throughout the world”...