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Papal visit lessons Thanks to The Tablet (News from Britain and Ireland, 18 September) for drawing attention to the article by Tony Blair published on the front page of L’Osservatore Romano on the eve of Pope Benedict’s arrival in Britain. In view of the well-merited criticism of “aggressive secularism” by the Pope during his visit, one point made by the former British Prime Minister appears crucially important. Tony Blair warned that some religious repre- sentatives tend “to bundle a large number of different ideas into a bag marked ‘secularism’” which they then treat “as a sinister package”. The Pope himself in his key Westminster

Hall address did the opposite. He listed and praised the values embodied in British society. Thus he paid tribute to the mother of parlia- ments, the balance between state’s rights and individual rights, the rule of law before which all are equal, the tolerance, the mod- eration, the freedom of speech and association, of religion and conscience. He even said that “Catholic Social Teaching has much in common with this approach”. Only then did he voice his concern that instead of being allowed to make its own unique contribution to the ethical foundations underpinning democracy, today religion risked being ousted from the public square.

Building successfully on his message means following his lead: avoid a black bag inside which every item is labelled “secular – sinister”. John Wilkins London SW1

Last week, one news agency reported the Pope’s warm remarks at a general audience in Rome about his visit to Britain. Immediately afterwards there was news of the Catholic- Orthodox Commission meeting in Vienna. Benedict XVI said, “Obedience to the will of the Lord Jesus, and consideration of the great challenges that appear today before Christianity, oblige us to commit ourselves seriously in the cause of the re-establishment of full communion among the Churches.” This was amazing as there was nothing similar during the British trip. All the emphasis on Newman may even seem to be inviting people to leave the Anglican Church. Archbishop Williams quoted Pusey as saying, “It is what is unholy on both sides that keeps us apart.” The ecumenical approach would have us concentrate on what is unholy on our own side, on the beam in our own eye rather than the mote in the other’s. For example, the Pope spoke of Tyburn and the “great number” exe- cuted there. But there were far more burnt under Queen Mary. The “Martyrs’ Memorial” in Oxford commemorates them; this is also the title of the Revd Ian Paisley’s main church.

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Pilgrims at the Prayer Vigil led by Pope Benedict in Hyde Park, London, during his four-day visit to Britain last month. Photo: CNS, Dylan Martinez, Reuters

and in the case of the recent visit, it proved virtually impossible to include Wales since all the arrangements were made without the Welsh Assembly being apprised sufficiently soon to extend its own invitation to the Pope. Some attention, admittedly, was given to

A unilateral approach like this would not be obedience to Christ. John Paul II prayed at some monuments in Europe dedicated to Protestants executed by Catholics. Surely the next time a Pope comes to England, we must persuade him to pray at the shrine in Oxford in a spirit of ecumenical forgiveness. (Fr) Eoin de Bhaldraithe O.Cist. Bolton Abbey, Co. Kildare, Ireland

I was sceptical of the kind of welcome that Pope Benedict was likely to receive in Britain. But then the unexpected occurred and thou- sands of people gave him a warm welcome. Many people here in Zambia were glued to their seats keenly following the events broadcast live on Sky and BBC, and were themselves very pleased with the whole visit. (Fr) Douglas Ogato Mafr Serenje, Zambia

The silences at the Prayer Vigil in Hyde Park were profound; it would be wonderful if we could have more silence at Mass both after the first two readings and the homily and after Communion. People yearn both for uplifting music and for the opportunity to contemplate. John Woodhouse London SE25

The non-inclusion of Wales was a conspicuous omission and reasons adduced such as the state nature of the Pope’s visit or his “punishing schedule” were unconvincing. When Pope John Paul II visited Great Britain in 1982, he would not have visited Wales at Cardiff Arms Park but for the strenuous efforts of Bishop Daniel Mullins against a certain, mainly London-based, men- tality that viewed Wales as marginal and not important enough to merit the Pope’s presence;

Wales at the Mass at Westminster Cathedral. The Pope blessed a new mosaic of St David recently installed in the cathedral, addressed the people of Wales, expressing his sadness at not being able to visit them, prayed before the statue of Our Lady of the Taper brought from Cardigan to mark the occasion, and was presented by Bishop Edwin Regan of the Wrexham Diocese with a facsimile copy from the Universe editor Joseph Kelly, in collabor - ation with the National Library of Wales, of the Welsh recusant spiritual classic Y Drych Cristionogol. I do not in any way wish to belittle these efforts, but they are only crumbs of comfort compared with what an actual visit to Wales would have been like. (Dr) R. Iestyn Daniel Aberystwyth, Wales

Michael Knowles (Letters, 25 September) deplored the “overwhelming display of a separate clerical identity” at the Newman beati fication Mass. My wife and I were at the ecumenical service in Westminster Abbey and our experience was quite different. Across the aisle and occupying seats nearer the front were several Catholic auxiliaries. On their side and ours, the foremost rows were filled with a mix of Anglican and Catholic bishops. Next to me, without dog collars, were two Independent ministers from South Wales, who spoke to each other in Welsh throughout the service (including the saying of the Lord’s Prayer). As others arrived, there were obviously quite a number of grey-suited male and more female clergy, but of which denomination it was impossible to say, except for the cassocked Orthodox. The wearing of a “Roman” collar is no guarantee of the wearer being a “left- footer”, nor of a dog-collared woman being Anglican. As for those appearing to be laity, they could easily have also been like my seated neighbours. What the make-up of the congregation was in

the north transept and nave, I don’t know, but that of the south transept made the occasion feel all rather informal, somewhat mixed up, and typically ecumenical, with the principals rather surreally out of sight, to be seen only on TV! (Dr) Paul Walker Eckington, Derbyshire

My sympathies were with Michael Knowles, who described a distressing denial of Communion in the hand on the whim of a priest at the

2 October 2010 | THE TABLET | 17

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