Leading article: Benedict spoke to Britain

Related Topics

Many will remain angry and aggrieved after Pope Benedict's visit to Britain, just as many will continue to ask why a country with an established Protestant church in this secular age was hosting a four-day state visit by the head of the Roman Catholic Church at all. We ask that question ourselves. But there will be many, too – mostly, but not exclusively, British Catholics – who will have found consolation and encouragement in the pastoral aspects of his stay, which, after all, constituted by far the largest part.

As a whole, this highly contested visit passed off better, even much better, than might have been expected. This was thanks in part to the scheduling and the smooth functioning of the arrangements, areas in which official Britain knows its stuff and usually excels. It was also thanks to the orderly protests that gave the critics a voice. But it was thanks, in much larger part, to what the Pope said and how he said it. While lacking the charisma of his predecessor, Benedict showed he has a warmer, more human and less rigid side than comes across at a distance. His decision to make his public statements and give his homilies in English was a help here, as he was able to speak directly to his audience.

There was disappointment in some quarters that he did not apologise directly for what some see as his personal responsibility for the Church's cover-up of child abuse. He did, however, go further than he has in any public utterances to accept and apologise for the shame that paedophile priests had brought on the Church and described the abuse as a "crime". He also met some of the victims, as he has done in other countries he has visited. That itself is a form of penance.

There were times over the four days when the awkwardness of today's Britain was exposed in the face of religion in general and Catholicism in particular. The mainstream media veered uneasily from extreme deference to extreme hostility, while offering blanket coverage. But there were times, too, when the Pope's words indisputably struck a chord.

In his attacks on "aggressive secularism", in his insistence on the worth and dignity of everyone, including the very old and disabled, and in his warnings against the pursuit of material success and celebrity above all else, he reflected the misgivings of many Britons about their own country – believers and non-believers alike. And for all his hints that too much tolerance risked banishing religion to the margins, he may have left Britain just a little more broad-minded than he found it.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Riyadh is setting itself up as region’s policeman

Lina Khatib
Ed Miliband and David Cameron  

Cameron and Miliband should have faith in their bolder policies

Ian Birrell
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor