By the time you read this His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI will have started his first state visit to the UK. Of this I ask myself the question: “am I bothered”?
For a Baptist (I was born one) the Pope’s visit to UK doesn’t really mean much. All I know is that as a UK Tax-payer; I am paying for this State Visit which apparently is costing 12million pounds excluding security. A whole heap of money if you ask me; but don’t get me wrong, I think the Pope’s visiting the UK is a great thing which has gotten too media attention. It is ridiculous.
Pope Benedict XVI’s first state visit to the UK is surrounded by a lot of controversy – it’s a total mess if you ask me. The issue of child abuse has resurfaced and it is not a pretty picture. The Vatican has been accused of protecting and covering-up its paedophile and offending priests and this pope is right in the middle of it all. News of his visit has rekindled anger among the victims and campaigners who all believe that the Vatican has not done enough to address the issue. While he was still a Cardinal, Pope Benedict was in charge of Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office. He held the position of prefect and it was his duty to protect the congregation, yet he refused to remove many a priest who were known to be either paedophiles or perverts and for this many are angry.
A few years ago the Pontiff claimed diplomatic immunity when he was accused in a lawsuit conspiring to cover up the molestation of three boys in Texas. However this is nothing compared to what people have accused him of. As well as being a religious leader, the pope is a head of state, one which has been responsible for: opposing the distribution of condoms and so increasing large families in poor countries and the spread of Aids; promoting segregated education; denying abortion to even the most vulnerable women; opposing equal rights for lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender people; and failing to address the many cases of abuse of children within its own organisation.
Interestingly despite all the controversy, Catholics from all over Britain and visitors from far and near are waiting in earnest to see the His Holiness. They flock in, in their hundreds to come and see this Man of God. I dare say, though, that at the rate at which the Catholics go on about the Pope, you would rather think the it was the “God of Man” who was coming to town. Everybody who will going to be attending Mass has been checked out and scrutinized, down to the very clothes they will have on their backs. With all sincerity, I ask: isn’t the pope a mere mortal, or am I missing something?
A few months ago, news broke that a memo about the Pope’s visit was being circulated round the UK’s Foreign Office with the title “The Ideal Visit we would like to See”. It was no surprise to me. Now the contents of the said memo are not exactly according to the Catholic beliefs – in fact, they directly oppose everything that the he believes in. The junior civil servant who authored the email admitted that some of his ideas were indeed far-fetched. He suggested that the pontiff should be asked to open an abortion clinic, bless a gay marriage, launch a line of “Benedict Condoms” and launch a helpline for abused children by catholic priests. You’ve got to love the irony, but the Vatican didn’t find it at all funny and the Brits had to issue an apology.
The question that bothers me is this: Britain is a country that has seized to take religion seriously, and yet Pope Benedict still chooses to visit? Therefore, there’s a real danger that he will be greeted with a lot of indifference by the public. But there’s nothing new about that right? At least the man is used to being hated. Left to me, I really don’t care about his visit. I simply can’t be bothered.