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Inside Track Focus

Keeping the faith While First Minister Alex Salmond has

Katie Mackintosh Feature Writer

Reflecting on the success of the papal visit and the role of the church in modern Scotland

Te Scotland that greeted Pope Benedict

XVI last week was a very different country from the one which met his predecessor nearly 30 years ago. In 1982 nearly 2 million people flocked to see Pope John Paul II during his pastoral visit to the UK, including the 300,000 who attended an open-air mass in Glasgow’s Bellahouston Park. In 2010, however, the welcome was less

assured. For weeks, the press had been dominated by warnings of citizens’ arrests and protests that would meet Pope Benedict as he became the first head of the Catholic Church to pay a state visit to the UK. Similarly, unlike his charismatic predecessor, the quieter Pope Ratzinger’s popularity is more precarious - “If John Paul II had not been Pope, he would have been a movie star; if Benedict had not been Pope, he would have been a university professor,” as US Vatican expert, John L Allen, aptly put it. Attempts to recreate the euphoric scenes at

Bellahouston three decades ago – when Pope John Paul was greeted by a deafening seven- minute-long ovation - fell flat as complaints about the overpricing of tickets and confusion over transport arrangements threatened to overshadow the event. However, it was not just this makeshift

congregation that was depleted. Pope Benedict arrived to find his church’s once impressive and faithful flock dwindling. While an influx of Eastern European migrants has boosted congregation numbers in recent years, the estimated Catholic population in Scotland has fallen by 18 per cent from 814,400 in 1982, to 667,017 in 2008.

22 Holyrood 20 September 2010

spoken warmly of the role Catholicism has played in Scotland’s history and praised its continuing contribution to the nation, adding that he “values the role all our faith communities play in enriching the life of Scotland socially, culturally, and spiritually”, Pope Benedict himself acknowledged the reality and threat of secularisation, aligning atheism with Nazism in his address at Holyrood Palace. “Even in our own lifetime, we can recall how

Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live. I also recall the regime’s attitude to Christian pastors and religious who spoke the truth in love, opposed the Nazis and paid for that opposition with their lives. “As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the twentieth century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus to a ‘reductive vision of the person and his destiny,’” he cautioned. As if on cue, the National Secular Society was

among the most vociferous in its objections to the visit, with director Keith Porteous Wood describing it as a “breathtakingly expensive jamboree.” Te cost was one of the society’s principal objectives. Pope John Paul II’s trip cost around £7m – or around £20m in today’s money – and was organised and largely funded by the Church. However, Wood argues that the £12m estimated cost of the 2010 visit falls far short, insisting that the true figure will likely be closer to around £50m. “Te [UK] government have been

breathtakingly evasive about how much all of this security is going to cost. Lord Patten said the total cost of the visit is going to be between £10-12m, and then very quietly said, ‘excluding security.’ Tat is actually the biggest bit of it. When he was challenged with, will the bill come to £50m or £100m, he says, ‘poppycock.’ Well, actually, I don’t think it is poppycock. I can’t see it coming to less than £50m. Te G8 in Gleneagles cost £72m and there is a quoted security expert who says he can’t see how it would cost less than that given that this is in multiple locations, in multiple police areas, planned, as far as I can see, without the least consideration of cost, which I think is profligacy given the straitened times we are living [in].”

Additionally, Wood argues that the Pope’s

stance on human rights issues makes him “the very last person we should be inviting,” highlighting the recent scandal over clerical child abuse and describing the Church’s interference on contraception and AIDS as “verging on genocidal”. Te world has moved on and the Vatican’s

views no longer represent those held in British society, or indeed among Catholics, he argues. “Tere is a fascinating YouGov poll that was

run by Catholics for Choice, a liberal Catholic organisation in America that we have close ties with, in 2007 and the question was, ‘Do you agree with the Catholic bishops’ line on abortion law?’ and the stunning answer was only a quarter of Catholics agreed with it and only a seventh of the population. “If you crossed out ‘abortion’ and put

‘homosexuality’, I’m convinced that that quarter would become ten per cent and if you crossed out ‘homosexuality’ and put ‘contraception’, you wouldn’t get five per cent, but these are the policies that with the

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