AT FIRST the recent pamphleting escapades of a handful of shrill and desperate anti-papal propagandists may seem to merit no more than the wry and weary smile specially reserved for fellow Christians intent on making fools of themselves. But it is possible to learn in charity even from the antics of the lunatic fringe.
In this particular case the fulminations of the Protestant Reformation Society offer a valuable demonstration of the shadowy mesh of ignorance and fear which so often impedes progress towards unity. It is a much needed reminder to the major denominations of this country that the quest for unity must extend beyond academic dialogue and even beyond the practical work of enthusiasts at parish level.
Old mythologies are always more powerful than either reasoned theological debate or good works. We must accept that if the prayer "that they all might be one" is to become more than a pleasantry, it is necessary to touch the hearts of the fearful and unenthusiastic.
The Catholic community in England, Scotland and Wales now has a unique impetus for taking up this work. Before the Pope was shot, his only stricture about his projected visit here next year was that it would have to be characterised by a spirit of ecumenism throughout. Although no details of the visit can be taken for granted until the extend of his recovery is ascertained, the web of administrative problems is already being disentangled and the wheels of commerce set in motion.
It is surely time to begin thinking about a programme of more spiritual preparation and education in our parishes. The extreme wing of evangelical protestantism is not the only group to harbour dark fears and suspicions. The specks in the eyes of the PRS are clearly visible. If the Pope's wish for his visit is to be realised it is time to remove any logs of misunderstanding from our own.