Pope in Britain

Parish Diary

Fr. Peter Daly

September 21, 2010


Fr. Peter Daly talks about Pope Benedict’s trip to Britain.


            Bravo for the Pope! Bravo for EWTN! Hurrah for the British people!

            What a wonderful weekend of news came to us from Great Britain, as Pope Benedict XVI visited that island nation. He confronted his critics with gentleness and encouraged his followers with hope.

            Thanks to EWTN’s wall to wall coverage, I was able to watch the event unfold in all its British splendor. EWTN proved its value to the Church. Raymond Arroyo and his companions, Fr. Joseph Sirico and Prof. Joseph Pearce gave real insight. Listening to them was like a short course in Newman’s thinking and in English history and literature.

In my opinion it even achieved three small miracles.  

            The first was a miracle of conversion.

In the run-up to the Papal visit, the British chattering classes became aggressive in their atheism and nearly hysterical in their anger.

            Professional atheist Richard Dawkins, called for the Pope’s arrest as a criminal.

British journalist, Claire Rayner, wrote that the Pope was so “disgusting, … so repellant, … and so hugely damaging, that the only thing to do was get rid of him.”

Their animus was so over the top that it achieved a miracle. They created sympathy for the Pope in historically anti-Catholic Britain.

In a country where the monarch may never be a Catholic and which celebrates November 5 as Guy Fawkes Day, a day to kill priests, they created sympathy for the Pope of Rome.

Even more significantly, they actually got people to listen to him. The Pope drew crowds that rock stars and politicians could only envy. He gained the respect of the British, who are a fundamentally fair-minded and descent.

The second miracle was a miracle of prayer.

Everywhere people were praying.

They prayed in Hyde Park. They prayed in Westminster Abbey. They prayed in Cathedrals and universities. They prayed in beautiful English words and gracious silence.   The Papal visit showed the universal hunger for prayer.

One of the most wonderful things was the invitation to silent reflection after each of the Pope’s homilies. In a noisy world, people sat in perfect silence.

The prayers were poetic. The English are a poetic people. One of the most beautiful moments was at the Beatification of Cardinal Newman, when the choir sang his poem, “Praise to the holiest in the heights, and in the depths be praise. In all His works most wonderful, most sure in all His ways.” It was lovely.  

The third miracle was a miracle of reconciliation.

Rivals and enemies came together in discourse and embraced as friends.

There was a gathering religious leaders of all faiths at St. Mary’s University in Twinkenham.  Only the Pope could have drawn such a diverse group of rivals.

Each of them talked about the universal call to holiness desire for meaning.

Pope Benedict said that the question concerning the ultimate meaning of our human existence is the quest for the sacred. This “is the search for the one thing necessary, which alone satisfies the longings of the human heart.”

The chief Rabbi of Britain, Lord Jonathan Sacks, agreed. He spoke of what we offer the modern world. “In the face of a deeply individualistic culture, we offer community. Against consumerism, we talk about things that have value but not a price. Against cynicism we dare to admire and respect. … We hold life holy.”  

Pope Benedict made us proud of our faith and our Church.

Unlike his critics, his voice was reasonable, courageous, intelligent, respectful and peaceful. If the irenic spirit of those four days can be continued, it was worth the trip to Britain.