The ‘Vicar of Jesus’ Comes to Britain

17/09/10 | Posted by MattPage

Much has been written about Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the UK over the next few days. Yesterday he touched down in Edinburgh as part of a four day visit to England and Scotland which will see him also visit Glasgow, London and Birmingham.

 © Mazur/ used under a Creative Commons Licence

The last time a Pope visited Britain was in John Paul II’s visit in 1984. Since then much has changed. Church numbers have decline rapidly, the paedophile scandal has rocked Catholicism and this visit has been objected to by various groups.

The objections have come from a number of angles. Most prominent is criticism of the child abuse scandal and of how the Vatican has handled the affair. It’s been seen as slow off the mark, to have acted weakly and not shown enough remorse to what are extremely serious problems. Whilst Archbishop Rowan Williams hastily withdrew the observation that the scandal has damaged the church in Ireland that must surely be the case. The Pope doesn’t really do interviews, but if he did, this issue would surely be the one that he would be asked about most frequently.

Secondly there’s condemnation of the Roman Catholic church’s stand against the use of condoms, and the effect that has had on the spread of HIV. Whilst evidence does seem to support the theory, it’s nevertheless a strange scenario - people do seem to ignore the church’s teaching on sex outside of marriage but follow it on contraception. To change this position would back track on hundreds of years of teaching, but nevertheless many will sympathise with the point of view that doing so would reduce the spread of HIV which is threatening so many lives.

But there’s also an argument around the cost of what is officially a state visit. Objectors point out that the trip is costing the British tax payer £12 million when the Vatican isn’t even technically a state. This seems a little bit nit-picky to me. Even if the trip were not an official state visit, the majority of that money (policing, security, transport, accommodating the entire party) would still have to be spent, and a large number of people are very pleased to see the Pope in this country.

At the same time such expense, and the apparent wealth of the Catholic Church, seems to be a far cry from the life of Jesus who claimed to have “nowhere to lay his head” and suggested that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

No doubt debate will continue during the Pope’s visit, but it’s to be hoped that the result of such debate will benefit those at risk and the less fortunate, and not just be an exercise in two sides shouting past each other.

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I’m glad His Holiness had a safe trip.

#1. By Ryan on October 12, 2010

Firstly, I love this website, long may it continue! Unfortunately, I find the article about the Pope’s visit very negative. Three points are made - child abuse scandal, use of condoms and cost of visit: all of which are implicit and indeed explicit criticisms of the Church. The Catholic Church needs absolute criticism and condemnation regarding its past handling of the abuse scandal.  However, the condom issue reflects the teaching of the Catholic Church. Also, state visits are funded by the host country - I don’t remember an outcry re cost when the Emperor of Japan visited. Remember, the Catholic Church does a tremendous amount of good, and I thought as Christians we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. Let’s not let personal and negative articles stand in the way of Christian unity and informed debate. God bless you all and God bles reJesus!

#2. By AE on October 13, 2010




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