I was reading Fr Ray Blake’s post about the security measures for the Holy Father’s Mass of Beatification (which have apparently been described as ‘draconian’ !); and he raises the question of whether the Government’s involvement in the security issues of the Holy Father’s visit might have anything to do with the costs of attending the Mass . . . and, he might have added, the grave (and wholly unnecessary) inconveniences to all those attending of the arrangements being imposed.
I think I have made it clear in the past that I am a passionate supporter of the Holy Father; but that I am unconvinced of the merits of the arrangements which are being made for the public events of His visit . . . and Fr Ray has started a train of thought in my mind.
I have come to the conclusion that, wonderful as it is that His Holiness was invited (at least ostensibly) by Her Majesty The Queen to make a State Visit to the UK, it would have been better had the invitation been declined : or, had it been accepted, that it had not been linked with any significant ecclesiastical events.
Why ? Well because it seems to me undesirable that anyone outside the ecclesiastical hierarchy should have any say whatever in – or influence on – the arrangements for such events; and one has only to look at the tissue of offensive nonsense which was suggested by the official of the FCO originally in charge of their wing of the arrangements to realize the truth of that statement.
When Pope John Paul II came to the UK in 1982 there were several major events; the greatest of them being the Mass of Pentecost at Coventry Airport which was attended by (to the best of my recollection) some 250,000 people . . . the vast majority of them at no very great personal inconvenience. This time rather less than a third as many people will attend the Beatification in Cofton Park, and almost all of them after some expense, and quite considerable difficulty . . . expense and difficulty which, it would appear, is the more or less direct result of the involvement of Her Majesty’s Government.
His Holiness’ status as a Head of State seems to me, to be quite honest, to be irrelevant; if only because I keep in my mind the formula which was used at the Papal Coronation in the old days . . . ‘Father of Princes and Kings’; and I have to be honest and say that I increasingly see, in this forthcoming ‘State Visit’, actually a diminution of his potency and authority, as his spiritual realm is interfered with by the practical – but irrelevant – constraints imposed by Her Majesty’s Government.