ZENIT reports on 19th August 2010 that a Vatican spokesman said that Benedict XVI’s trip to the United Kingdom in September 2010 will be an opportunity to effectively present a secularized society with the positive contribution and beauty of the Christian faith and the Catholic Church. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, offered this prediction in an interview with Vatican Radio about the Sept. 16-19 trip.
The spokesman said that the Pope’s first-day meeting with the queen is “awaited with great intensity and emotion,” as is the Scotland leg of the trip. “I would like to remind, moreover, that the day the Pope will be in Scotland is the feast of St. Ninian, who is the patron, the evangelizer of Scotland,” Father Lombardi noted. “Hence it is a very important day for the Scots.”
Then there will be “the Pope’s great address in Westminster Hall, the meeting with society, with the world of culture, with all the most active and authoritative components of English society,” he continued. “This will certainly be a moment watched with great attention.”
Father Lombardi added that the ecumenical dimension of the trip should not be discounted. That element includes a meeting between the Pope and the leader of the Anglican Communion, the archbishop of Canterbury.
“The ecumenical celebration certainly has great significance,” Father Lombardi contended. “We also know that it is a delicate moment for Anglicanism, because of the internal debates. And it is a delicate moment also for relations with the Catholic Church, because the internal debates are reflected also in the relationship between the Anglicans and the Catholics.”
Father Lombardi classified the closing vigil in Hyde Park and the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman as the “spiritual heart of this visit.”
He mentioned the bond that unites the Holy Father to Cardinal Newman, a poet and Anglican pastor, subsequently received in the Catholic Church and made a cardinal by Pope Leo XIII. This bond, explained the Vatican spokesman, is visible in the “profound synthesis between faith and reason” and “in living Christian witness in today’s world, in the modern world, giving all the reasons of the Christian faith for those who ask for them, giving reason for our hope in today’s world.”
In regard to the question of the so-called tickets to participate in some of the events, as for example the vigil in Hyde Park, Father Lombardi clarified that the costs and organization of a papal visit fall to the inviting nation.
“It isn’t the Pope who organizes a trip for himself in England,” he said. “Hence, the first thing: the Vatican has not established any of this.” The spokesman said that the need to ask for a contribution to participate in the three main public events stems from the fact that people will use organized means of transportation; hence the ecclesial authorities have had to issue “a pass, a specific passport to each of the faithful that participates” and “a small service kit — also pastoral and logistical.”
In reference to the novelty of this visit, compared to that of Pope John Paul II 30 years ago, Father Lombardi stressed that much has changed, particularly elements such as “the approach of the visit itself, which has the aspect of a state visit with an official invitation from the queen and the government, whereas that of John Paul II was more specifically pastoral.”
“I would say that what is expected, what can be desired, truly hoped for from this visit is the fact of making it understood, of presenting the service of the Christian faith and the service of the Catholic Church for a very developed but also a very secularized society, such as that of the United Kingdom,” he said. “A reality, where perhaps many persons wonder about the value of Christian witness and Catholic witness in society.
“Hence, to make it understood that this is a gift for society, a richness that is offered with its service of spiritual inspiration but also of commitment in the educational field, in the field of health, of charity is something very important.
“We hope that this trip will also be a manifestation of the beauty, of the positiveness of the Holy Father’s service in society, much more so in times in which we also have had moments of controversy.”