|Pope Benedict XVI and the Archbishop of Canterbury |
at Westminster Abbey, Friday 17 September 2010
Copyright: Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey.
Revd Dr Trevor Hoggard was appointed by the British Methodist Conference and the European Methodist Council as their representative to the Holy See, in Rome in 2007. You can find out more about his ministry from his website. The following paragraphs record his experience of the Pope's visit to Britain. I'm hoping Trevor will be able to publish more about his work here in due course.
Like many others last week I found myself drawn in to the television broadcast of the papal visit. Again, like many others, I found myself warming to the unfolding story to a degree I hadn't anticipated. Whilst having seen a good deal of the mounting excitement and trepidation in Catholic friends prior to the visit, I was relieved for their sakes that the visit went better than many had feared - and others had maliciously hoped. But as a Methodist, I had assumed that it was a spectacle for the Catholic faithful and not of huge importance to other Christians. As I watched, I changed my mind. Perhaps the visit had enabled the grassroots of British society to give voice to a faith that is constantly discounted and derided in the modern media by the so-called intelligentsia and television celebrity alike. Christian faith is perhaps proving just as obstinate in the face of modern secularism as it has done when faced with other threatening world views of the past. If so, this is a happy surprise for Christians of any persuasion.
On Wednesday morning I was sitting just a few rows away from Pope Benedict at his weekly audience in Rome when he recounted the highlights of his visit to Britain to a global audience. I was fascinated to see how Benedict appeared to be genuinely enthused by the visit. I think he found reassurance that the old fabric of Christian Europe had not yet been irreparably torn. One also suspected he had a renewed esteem for the Anglican church and a belief that a new and healthier phase in Vatican - British relations might well be dawning. His enthusiasm was infectious. I wonder if other nationalities in the huge crowd felt the same? The real question now is to what extent any of these effects endure long enough to produce real and lasting benefit. Time alone, as they say, can tell us that.