Fr Tim has posted today about the Holy Father’s forthcoming visit, and has referred to Anna Arco’s interview with Archbishop Vincent Nichols on the topic : but I’m afraid that Fr Tim’s comments on the Archbishop’s (IMHO) rather turgid and non-committal remarks are much more temperate than I feel able to be.
He says ‘There is still considerable frustration about many aspects of the visit, and particularly the failure to organise a major event which people can attend en masse . . . Apparently there will at least be the possibility of lining the streets: it is important for Catholics to do so in large numbers, cheering, singing and waving flags.’
I have to say that I’m not frustrated by the abject failure of the hierarchy to organise the liturgical functions so that the faithful can attend them in large numbers : I’m utterly horrified at it.
There would have been absolutely no rational difficulty in making arrangements for the Beatification Mass which would have allowed (say) 250,000 people to attend; and I suspect that an even higher number could have been achieved. Similarly, the other events could easily have been planned to allow significant numbers of people to have worshipped with His Holiness . . . watching him drive past is NOT an acceptable substitute for this, and I am simply horrified that the Hierarchy even (apparently) begins to think that it is.
From where I’m standing the arrangements are as they are either because – for whatever reason – there is pressure on the Hierarchy from the Government to handle things this way, or because – as some people have suggested – the Hierarchy does not really want the Holy Father here.
If it’s down to government pressure, then the Hierarchy should arrange for His Holiness to celebrate Mass with small and select congregations and good TV coverage, and to conduct the Beatification in (eg) the Birmingham Oratory on the same basis, and then tell the Catholics of Great Britain why they are doing so, so that they can bear it in mind at the next election !
If, on the other hand, it is all down to the Bishops, then they should, quite simply, be ashamed of themselves, and consider their positions very carefully. As Fr Tim rightly points out, ‘People want to be able to say "I was there" not "I watched it on the telly"’; and failing to make this possible – when it so easily could be – is utterly unacceptable.
My belief is that the situation could still be turned round, if the Hierarchy have the will to do so . . . the question is, do they ?