Tuesday, 21 September 2010

The Pope's visit to Britain

The Pope, Benedict XVI , made an official visit to the UK last week.  It was a visit surrounded by controversy and tight security.  The secularists and the agnostic/ atheist left were strong in their condemnation of the whole event.  True to their fears he spoke out strongly against secularism and the almost universal marginalisation of the Christian faith in Europe. 

Secularism can be summed in a couplet from the poet Swinburne, a poet who wrote in the latter half of the Nineteenth century.

Glory to Man in the highest!  
For Man is the master of things

The Pope spoke eloquently about the need for Christians to bear witness to the glorious truths of the Christian faith.  Even hardened protestants were impressed by his words.

"How much contemporary society needs this witness! How much we need, in the church and in society, witnesses of the beauty of holiness, witnesses of the splendour of truth, witnesses of the joy and freedom born of a living relationship with Christ!
One of the greatest challenges facing us today is how to speak convincingly of the wisdom and liberating power of God's word to a world which all too often sees the gospel as a constriction of human freedom, instead of the truth which liberates our minds and enlightens our efforts to live wisely and well, both as individuals and as members of society.

Let us begin with the sacrifice of the cross. The outpouring of Christ's blood is the source of the church's life. St John, as we know, sees in the water and blood which flowed from our Lord's body the wellspring of that divine life which is bestowed by the Holy Spirit and communicated to us in the sacraments (Jn 19:34; cf Jn 1:7; 5:6-7)."
We rarely hear such sentiments from a senior ecclesiastic in Britain these days.
The visit coincided with seventieth anniversary of the Battle of Britain,  when the nation fought for its very existence in the face of the onslaught from Nazi Germany,  We stood alone in Europe.  Our natural ally, the United States, had not entered the war.  The Nazis had conquered Poland in less than a fortnight and had scythed through northern France in less than ten days.   Their armies were strongly encamped on the coast of France, just over twenty miles from the English coast.  All that stood between us and ignominious defeat was this stretch of water, the timeless eloquence of Churchill and the immense bravery of the pilots of the Royal Airforce.  For weeks a protracted battle raged in the skies above Kent and London.  Sometimes the September sky was filled with more than 400 enemy bombers surrounded by hundreds of spitfires and hurricanes.  In the end the Luftwaffe realised they had bitten off more than they could chew, having lost over one and a half thousand aircraft, and Hitler postponed indefinitely the invasion of these shores. The cost was great: hundreds of young pilots were killed and over 40,000 civilians had perished in and around London,   
I think God spared us.  Not many people realise that King George VI and Churchill had called the nation to prayer and humiliation in May, just before the battle began.
As I finish I would like to pay tribute to the American journalist and broadcaster, Ed. Murrow.  As the bombs were falling, and with great personal courage, Murrow would stand in a doorway or under an arch during the Blitz, and begin with his famous opening phrase This Is London,  and then go on to describe the devastation and death all around him.  His words were eagerly listened to by millions in America.  President Roosevelt honoured him later in these words,
You burned the city of London in our houses and we felt the flames. You laid the dead of London at our doors and we knew that the dead were our dead ... were mankind's dead without rhetoric, without dramatics, without more emotion than needed be. You have destroyed the superstition that what is done beyond 3000 miles of water is not really done at all.
I think he did much to influence American public opinion in Britain's favour.

1 comment:

  1. It was quite an event. I just loved the fact that the Pope brought into focus the Christian gospel and how the lack of it was affecting society. It was also so good to see so many young people turning out to hear and see a man of Christian values.