From Mr John Beaumont SIR – No doubt there will be much debate in the next few weeks about the significance of Pope Benedict’s visit to this country. Perhaps I might be allowed to make reference to what are surely the essential issues.
1) The Pope emphasised the dangers to the Catholic faith and to our society generally of secularism and relativism. During the last 50 years it has often been claimed that the Church has nothing to fear from the modern world. What is quite clear now is that modernity has always been the enemy of the Church and it remains so today. The Pope has pointed out clearly whence the threats come.
2) The Holy Father also gives us the solution to these problems. It lies in evangelisation (as he emphasised in his address to the bishops). And this means surely an end to the false belief that because of a magical process known as dialogue our former enemies had been transformed into friends. What is needed is the proclamation of the Catholic faith in the fullness of its truth. Only this will result in true conversion.
3) On the sexual abuse crisis: yes, the horror of this must be acknowledged and the fact that responsibility is greater in those who are part of the sacred priesthood. But, again, we have a duty to point out the truth. This is that the percentage of priests in England and Wales accused is 0.4 per cent. Fewer than this have been found guilty. The figures for other groups in society are much higher. Between 40 per cent and 60 per cent of sexual abuse of children is committed by family members. The impression is often given that abuse is a Catholic thing. It most certainly is not.
4) Division between Catholics has been historically a major cause of loss of influence. When the Church was strong, which is to say when she was united, the Church won the battles against her enemies. That unity can only come when Catholics fully accept the teaching and authority of the Church and that of the successor of St Peter.
5) The potential is there for the ongoing witness of Cardinal Newman to be a continuing support for Catholics. But this can only happen if it is acknowledged that for Newman a) the Catholic Church, as he explained at the time of his conversion, is the one ark of salvation, the one true fold of the redeemer; and b) his own work for 50 years was to oppose the spirit of liberalism in the Church, the same spirit that is being resisted so heroically by the present Pope.
Yours faithfully, JOHN BEAUMONT Apperley Bridge, West Yorkshire From Mr John Owen SIR – We, as ordinary English Catholics, should give grateful thanks to the Holy Father for the inspiring leadership he has shown to us during his visit to our country. He has alerted both the Church and our fellow countrymen to the debilitating impact which aggressive secularism is having on the Church itself and on our society as a whole.
Let us hope and pray that our English bishops will respond to his call and will now have the strength and courage to continue his mission and to speak out clearly and unequivocally in defence of our faith, values and institutions.
Yours faithfully, JOHN OWEN Sittingbourne, Kent From Mr Richard Symington SIR – Pope Benedict XVI has now, on the feast day of St Theodore of Tarsus, one-time Archbishop of Canterbury, beatified John Henry Cardinal Newman, this country’s pre-eminent Victorian theologian and educationalist. Included among Blessed Cardinal Newman’s considerable achievements is his founding of the Oratory School in 1859. All boys now at the OS and all the OS’s old boys, including myself, my father, brothers, uncles, numerous cousins, many further relations, and friends of various vintages (not to mention both my long-departed grandfathers), join together in a spiritual bond at this time of special grace for England to celebrate a great joy, something for which we and others have waited so long; and we continue to pray fervently for his eventual canonisation, which would thus make him the first English person since the 17th century to be officially recognised as a saint by the Catholic Church.
Yours faithfully, RICHARD SYMINGTON London SW17 From Mr Kevin Greenan SIR – Two weeks ago we were filled with a mixture of anticipation and serious worries. Today, thank God, we can look back on four days that for many of us will stay with us all our lives: four glorious days of joy, of prayer and of pride. We are proud most of all of the reaction of young British Catholics. In Scotland, London and Birmingham they stole the highlights with their unbridled love for the Holy Father. If we were worried the schedule would tire him, their numbers, cheering and enthusiasm carried him.
Prior to the visit we had so many confusing and mixed messages from the bishops’ conference; many were left wondering if the visit was a good idea at all. Being urged to stay at home and watch the Holy Father on television, the distribution of tickets – all full of negative messages. We were also forced to bear the most hostile media coverage ever seen in these islands for a state visit. The media were lead by the nose by Peter Tatchell. The Protest the Pope website urged massive demonstrations and made disgraceful allegations.
Today we can rejoice that the laity turned out along the Popemobile route in great numbers, filled the parks and places the Holy Father was to appear and celebrated four great days of our faith – especially on the Mall in front of Buckingham Palace, where such crowds are only ever seen on great royal occasions. As for Mr Tatchell, his demos were a damp squib.
My final words must be for Pope Benedict. Holy Father, your words were full of courage, of guidance, of love. Your inspiration and invoking us to know more of Cardinal Newman has injected the nation with hope, Your defence of the Christian faith has won you the respect and admiration of more than just your Catholic flock. Viva il Papa!
Yours faithfully, KEVIN GREENAN London SW1 From Mr Donal Foley SIR – I’m writing following the very successful papal event at Cofton Park on Sunday, which was somewhat marred by the activities of some individuals as the pilgrims were leaving. There were people handing out newspapers, with the title The British Christian Crusader, which had a front page devoted to reporting the Pope’s visit. But the rest of the paper was a mixture of articles about Cardinal Newman and some very suspect biblical prophetic material, the prediction of a New World Order, etc.
From the list of websites given, this paper seems to have been produced by the Seventh Day Adventists or a similar group. I saw people taking these papers and afterwards some of them reading them, so it is a tragedy that this unbalanced nonsense is being handed out at such an event, and potentially undoing the good effected by the Pope.
There really out to be some sort of public warning at important events like this, so that Catholics do not take literature from these groups and organisations.
Yours faithfully, DONAL FOLEY Chilwell, Nottingham From Mr Ralph J McGuire SIR – Most Catholics would not have been surprised by the attacks by Channel 4 and the BBC on the Pope two days before his visit. For each it reflected its usual anti-religious stance. The viciousness of the attacks may have, for them, been counter-productive, since several of my non-Catholic friends, without prompting, told me how shocked they had been by the hatred shown.
But since both, along with the Independent, continued a very negative campaign they had clearly underestimated the intelligence and general fairness of the British public, who obviously welcomed the Pope most generously and warmly.
Many Catholics may have wondered how to respond to this anti-religious bias. Written protests would do little good. A boycott of products advertised in the two commercial media is perhaps more of a lever. A firm, in the present commercial climate, might start to question whether advertising on Channel 4 was a good idea if a negative image was associated with it. Remember that in 1955 customers in Montgomery, Alabama, choosing to walk rather than use segregated buses altered segregation laws throughout America and established Martin Luther King as a civil rights leader.
I am afraid that as long as they are guaranteed your money, the BBC is beyond redemption as was shown by its response to the Jonathan Ross-Russell Brand scandal.
Yours faithfully, RALPH McGUIRE Edinburgh