By Graeme Morrison
In September of this year Pope Benedict XVI will make his first official visit to the UK, in which Britain’s Catholic population will be able to attend Holy Mass celebrated by the German Pontiff. For many, this will be a once in a life time opportunity and for others it will be a nostalgic reminder of the last Papal visit in 1982. It is against a backdrop of increasing hostility towards religious faith, that I feel the Pope’s visit is something we should be glad of.
The last half-decade has been peppered with a release of titles that challenges both the logical basis of religious belief and the effects it has on society. Most notable among these are Christopher Hitchens’ God is not Great and The God Delusion by zoologist Richard Dawkins – both bestsellers. The champions of secularism have however, in pursuit of the eradication or religion in public life, failed to take account of the negative effects it has had. Indeed, an airline worker can no longer wear a crucifix to work in fear of being sent home. Dawkins himself felt the need to set up a charity called ‘Non-Believers giving Aid’ for the Haiti disaster to dispel of the ‘myth that only religious people can be charitable’. Of course, this is not and has never been true. It is this type of ignorance of the positive impacts of religion that is most needing addressed. Open-air masses with hundreds of thousands of people in attendance can help to repair some of the falsehood assumptions about religion.
For anyone with access to the internet, it will only take a few clicks to see the frenzy that took place in 1982. As someone who is strongly religious, I believe that there has been plenty to have been ashamed of within the Church – most notably the child abuse cases that have arisen. This is a chance for the Church to distance herself from those that have corrupted the message of Christ in its name. Moreover, I believe the visit will be another important step to meeting the challenge of dealing with divisions of multiculturalism. The Muslim population, for example, can perhaps look upon the visit of the Pope as breaking down divisions that have existed between religious denominations that have existed since before the Reformation. Secularists may also reflect upon the visit to rediscover the true aims of their cause rather than the simplistic desire to wipe out religion at all costs.
Of course, there will be people who ardently oppose what I have put forward in this article. I do however believe that we should be open about Ratzinger’s visit and give the Catholic Church a true chance to convey a wonderful message of peace and love to the nation.