Things are tough as preparations begin for a Papal visit to Britain. A leading atheist campaigner has announced that he is getting legal advice on how to arrest the Pope when he arrives in September. All the major newspapers have been carrying searing headlines which assume the Church’s guilt in “covering up sex crimes” and attempts to set the record straight and give the true facts are met with few opportunities in the mainstream media.
It is virtually impossible to get a fair hearing if you want to set out the facts. The general response is along the lines of “We know all about the paedophiles in the Catholic Church and the cover-ups that have been going on – don’t try to tell us anything!”
The Internet is one source of truthful information, but it is difficult to get it highlighted. Edward Pentin, a British journalist working in Rome, has some useful material on his blog: http://rome-with-a-view.blogspot.com/ and there have been some excellent contributions from American writers such as Philip Lawler: http://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/otn.cfm?ID=632
Making plans for the Papal visit needs courage and faith. There is a website: http://www.thepapalvisit.org.uk/ and teams of young people are ready to talk about their Faith and answer challenging questions. The beatification of John Henry Newman should be a time of great joy for English Catholics. The plan is for the Holy Father to preside at a ceremony at Coventry airport – the nearest large site to the city of Birmingham, where Newman lived and worked for most of his Catholic life, http://www.newmancause.co.uk/.
The Catholic Union of Great Britain has teamed up with the Catholic Writers’ Guild to run a Young Writers’ Award focusing on Newman, http://www.catholicunion.org/. The Association of Catholic Women, along with the Catholic Truth Society is running a project for children in which they learn about the Pope and his role, http://www.associationofcatholicwomen.co.uk/html/re_project.html#2010project.
But the one thing really needed at present is prayer – lots of it – to ensure that the visit is a success. Britain is a badly demoralised country: it is destroying its own future as it kills thousands of babies by abortion every year; its families are fragmented with a very low marriage rate and many children living with a series of step-parents; it has a grave problem of drunkenness among its teenagers and a high rate of violent crime, especially involving street-stabbings.
A Papal visit could bring a note of hope, offering a positive Christian message which would also bring people together and be a reason for celebration with an emphasis on traditional values such as free speech and tolerance and neighbourliness. Perhaps that is why those who hate the Church, and Christian morality, and Britain’s longstanding Christian traditions, are doing their best to wreck it.
Pray for us.