UK

Reflections on the Pope's visit

  • 20 September 2010
  • From the section UK

What will the lasting legacy be for the Pope's visit to the UK?

THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH - FATHER CHRISTOPHER JAMISON

Image caption The Pope outside Westminster Cathedral on Friday

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 onto 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.

TERRY SANDERSON, PRESIDENT OF THE NATIONAL SECULAR SOCIETY

Image caption Thousands of people joined the protest march in London on Saturday

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.

ABUSE VICTIM SUE COX

Image caption Abuse victim Sue Cox says the Papal visit has incensed more people

It was a very successful PR stunt. He did what we expected - smiled a lot, kissed lots of babies and expressed sorrow.

He hasn't addressed the issues at all. He hasn't offered any recompense.

In terms of what he has done - he has done nothing.

The man has got a proven record of covering up child sex abuse. We want him to do something concrete - to open up those secret files.

When I went there on Saturday I met lots of other people who had been abused. They said the same thing.

I think what he has done is to incense more people.

He has done exactly what we predicted he would do.

MAX CLIFFORD, PUBLICIST

Image caption PR guru Max Clifford thinks the visit was a PR success

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.

FATHER PATRICK DALY, PRIEST AT ST PETER AND ST PAUL RC 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.

ANDREW COPSON, BRITISH HUMANIST ASSOCIATION

Image caption Non-religious people will be frustrated with politicians after the papal visit, says Andrew Copson

For non-religious people, the state visit of the Pope was immediately inflammatory. His first comments in our country linked not believing in God with Nazism and accused secularists of being intolerant.

Combined with the failure of our politicians to defend the values of secularism, equality and democracy in response to his comments, but instead to reassure him that faith was at the heart of Britain, I think that at least one of the legacies of the state visit will be a disaffection and frustration among non-religious people not just with the Pope but with our own politicians.

When it came to the march and rally - our main protest event - we were amazed at the turnout.

By the time we reached Westminster for the speeches we were just under 20,000 strong and we think that means we were the largest protest in modern times against the international policies of the Holy See.

Certainly there has never been anything like it at any Papal state visit in living memory.

The protesters had diverse motives, as the various placards testified: opposition to the undermining of the human rights of women, of gay and lesbian people, of children; the refusal of the Pope to ordain women; the concealment of child abuse and frustration of justice.

JESUS ECHEVARRIA, HEAD TEACHER OF ST AUGUSTINE'S SCHOOL, SCARBOROUGH, NORTH YORKSHIRE

(The school took a party of six children to the Twickenham event on Friday)

There was a certain trepidation when the trip was announced but I think it's opened people's eyes and they have found a very different Pope to the one that was painted by the media.

He had a very definite connection with young people. He spoke very well and what he said was very uplifting. He said it's OK to have money but it's not the be all and end all and he said the same about celebrity.

He said the point of worshipping is to get to heaven.

He praised the work of educational institutions and said education was about more than just exam results.

He had a very positive message of hope for the future.

He hasn't banged on about fire and brimstone, with a very conservative message that everything is banned.

John Paul II had a natural charisma but this Pope has shown that he has got that charisma too but we just hadn't been aware of it in England.

He also tackled the child abuse issue head on. He has tried to root it out. In the past it has been swept under the carpet but now we are putting our house in order.

THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND - CANON PAUL AVIS, GENERAL SECRETARY OF THE COUNCIL FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY

Image caption Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams met with Pope Benedict XVI at Lambeth Palace on Friday

Pope Benedict has given the spiritual health of Britain a shot in the arm. The Pope's humility impressed many.

He succeeded in putting eternal truths in simple, attractive words which found an echo in the hearts of many non-churchgoers.

The personal rapport between the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Pope was moving. It pointed to the fact that there is massive symmetry in belief and worship between our two traditions.

As the Archbishop implied, despite obvious differences, there is much that we can do together in united witness to the gospel in our society.

CALLUM CHAPLIN, 15, PUPIL AT ST AUGUSTINE'S, SCARBOROUGH

"It was quite a unique experience to hear him speak. A once-in-a-lifetime experience.

It was amazing the amount of young people there, there must have been 5,000 from all over the country.

The Pope said young people were the building blocks of the church in the future.

He said many people admire celebrities and rich people but you don't need fame or wealth to be happy. A lot of people of my age think that is what you need to be happy but it's not necessarily true.

He seemed like someone who respected everybody and was aware of the issues and knew where people were coming from.

One thing he said that stuck with me was that even if your faith is not as strong as you think it should be, you shouldn't worry, it will be back. Your faith may be dented but you should stick with it."

DR MARGARET KENNEDY, MACSAS FOUNDER: MINISTER AND CLERGY SEXUAL ABUSE SURVIVORS

Macsas is a support group for women and men from Christian backgrounds who have been sexually abused by ministers or clergy, as children or as adults.

"We were encouraged to hear the Pope move this week from referring to clergy sexual abuse as a perversion and a sin to describing it as 'an unspeakable crime', at last bringing these offences into the jurisdiction of state authorities rather than being dealt with internally and by prayer.

But there was still a failure to acknowledge and accept responsibility for the cover-up of the abuse.

Macsas is calling on the Vatican to put in place policies to ensure the mandatory reporting of all allegations of child abuse to state authorities, the handing over of any files on allegations of abuse and the setting up of redress boards/commissions to compensate survivors."

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