MR ENOCH POWell'S bizarre prophecies of the sinister political implications of the Pope's pastoral visit to this country for a few days in 1982 have been received In the spirit of bemused tolerance tinged with embarrassment with which the British traditionally greet the solecisms of eccentrics. If Mr Powell had seriously expected his speech to provoke an epidemic of fear that the Pope'a presence here would undermine British nationhood, he must be seriously disappointed.
While delivering his speech he must have known that his tortuous argument would gain little credence In ecclesiastical or governmental circles but as with the notorious "rivers of blood" speech the true impact lies in the dangerous blend of insularity, closely argued history and doom-laden suspicions which it has distilled into the public.
Mr Powell has suggested that he is voicing the unspoken forebodings of a substantial number of people who are alarmed at the constitutional havoc he envisages for 1982. If such preoccupations were common currency here we would be confronted with the strange prospect of the Pope being welcomed by a secular state or even a communist one but not by an avowedly Christian one.
Positive lessons can be drawn from Mr Povvell's sad outburst. It is proof, if more were needed, of the importance of the ecumenical dimension of the papal visit and a pointer of the work which remains undone to allay the cherished suspicions which can still bedevil progress towards Christian unity in this country.
But it is surely worth remembering that while Mr Powell was mouthing his dire warning* that the status of the Queen would be irretrievably imperilled by the Pope, on the other side of the world far away from the rhetoric of politicians, Prince Charles was talking to the slum children of Shishu Bevan end praying with Mother Teresa in the bare convent chapel in the shambles of Calcutta — a simple action but a powerful illustration that hope grounded in faith and
isn pr rvei Lei o ninthaaknef:edaantdicefeeparesr, no matter how beautifully argued.