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Papal visit: roundup/reactions

Catholic World News - September 20, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI has returned to his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo for a few days of relaxation, after a 4-day visit to Great Britain that his spokesman characterized as “an extraordinary success.”

In England, loyal Catholics were sorry to see the Pope leave, but elated by his visit and energized by his message. A headline in the Catholic Herald captured the mood nicely: “The Pope has routed his enemies and brought joy to the faithful.”

In the short report appearing under that headline, William Oddie said that the Pope’s personality had overcome the skepticism that had been fueled by protests prior to his arrival: “What came over consistently was the huge warmth, the seemingly inexhaustible loving kindness of the Pope’s gentle but nevertheless powerful personality. After all the caricatures, the man emerged.” Ross Douthat of the New York Times agreed that the papal visit “must have been a disappointment to his legions of detractors.” After weeks of publicity, the protesters disappeared into the crowds. Douthat referred to them as “a sideshow to the visit, rather than the main event.” A few reporters, less generously, described the Pope’s performance as a “charm offensive” and even revived the tired old language about “God’s Rottweiler” to describe the public image of Pope Benedict—an image that the same media outlets had helped to create. More perceptive journalists observed that while he had invariably been polite in his argument and winning in his presentation, the Holy Father had delivered a very challenging message to British society, staking the claims of the Catholic faith without apology.

In the building where St. Thomas More was sentenced to death, the Pope proposed that saint as a model for Church-state relations. Speaking to Anglican prelates, he suggested that Blessed John Henry Newman, a convert to Catholicism, is an ideal model for ecumenical progress. To one of the world’s most thoroughly secularized societies, the Pope brought the message that modern man is thirsting for God. If the Pontiff charmed the public, it was not because he soft-pedaled his message.

Raymond Arroyo of EWTN argued that the most under-reported story of the papal visit was the outreach to Anglicans, particularly under the terms of Anglicanorum Coetibus. The Pope’s offer to Anglicans, he said, was “a chance for Anglicans to return to the faith of their fathers before the Reformation and to protect themselves from an insidious secularism that is plaguing society at large and their communion in particular.” In Canada’s National Post, Father Raymond de Souza observed that the Pope “had succeeded in getting people to consider the central question he thinks Newman would ask today's Britain: What is the foundation of our common life if not our Christian heritage?”

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