FaithWorld

Seats still going for pope’s visit to Britain this week

pope glasgow (Photo: Workmen prepare altar for pope in Glasgow, September 14, 2010/David Moir)

Thousands of seats have yet to be filled for Pope Benedict’s public masses in England and Scotland this week, a far cry from the warm welcome his predecessor received nearly 30 years ago.

The pope arrives in Scotland on Thursday on a state visit at a time when the Church is struggling with a global sex-abuse scandal and hostility from one of Europe’s most secular nations.

The current pope has had a hard time inspiring the same enthusiasm as charismatic Pope John Paul II did during the first papal visit to Britain in 1982, when hundreds of thousands turned out to see him.

Early starts, strict security, the need to travel in pre-organized groups and the cost of entry have been cited as the reasons why people might not be attending the public events.

Read the full story here.

Follow FaithWorld on Twitter at RTRFaithWorld

Rare pope trip to Britain faces welcome ranging from polite to hostile

tartan (Photo: Cardinal Keith O’Brien displays the papal visit plaid in Edinburgh, Scotland September 9, 2010/David Moir)

Pope Benedict this week makes a challenging trip to Britain — only the second by a pope in history — and his welcome in one of Europe’s most secular nations will range from polite to indifferent and even hostile.

Coming on the heels of a simmering scandal of sexual abuse of children by priests in several European countries, strained relations with the Anglicans, and discontent over the taxpayer footing part of the bill, he will have his work cut out for him.

Benedict’s four-day visit starting on Thursday has been fraught with controversy and the reception will be a shadow of the rapturous one given to the charismatic John Paul in 1982.

Expect papal meeting with UK sexual abuse victims — Patten

pattenOne regular but regularly unannounced feature of papal trips in recent years has been the private meeting with local Catholics who were sexually abused as youths by priests. Journalists only find out about them after they’ve taken place. Just such a meeting seems to be on the cards during Pope Benedict’s visit to Britain next week, but of course it does not appear in his official schedule. Chris Patten, the prime minister’s special representative for the papal visit,  said as much on Monday in an interview with BBC television (quote at the end of the clip):

“On several previous visits, the pope has met victims of abuse. He has never said he was going to meet them before he did and his meetings have always, for very understandable reasons, been private. I would be surprised if in this visit or any future visit he behaved in any different way.”

When our London correspondent Avril Ormsby asked about any possible meeting with victims in an interview with him last week, Archbishop Vincent Nichols said: “It will not be announced beforehand, and it will take place in private, if that is going to be the case. But precisely because of those rules, it is not clear.”

No musical instruments please, Vatican asks Britons

vuvuzelaPilgrims attending the large public events during Pope Benedict’s visit to England and Scotland next month have been issued a long list of do’s and don’ts including a ban on musical instruments and steel cutlery.

The list encourages worshipers to bring sunblock, flags and folding chairs for the events in Glasgow, London and Birmingham, but said alcohol, gazebos and lit candles should be left at home because they “could pose a threat.” (Photo: A fan blows a vuvuzela at the World Cup 2010 in South Africa, June 22, 2010/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

It did not specifically mention the vuvuzela, but the noisy World Cup trumpet could be considered out of bounds under the category of banned instruments and whistles. The trip from September 16 to 19 will be the first papal visit since Pope John Paul II’s pastoral visit in 1982 and is the first-ever official papal visit to Britain.

Pope UK visit costs soar, London concerned about protests, Paisley sees “mistake”

Pope  Benedict isn’t visiting Britain until September, but his trip is already making headlines there. Here are our latest reports:

pattenCampaigners planning to stage demonstrations during Pope Benedict’s visit to Britain should show restraint, the prime minister’s special representative for the papal visit, Chris Patten, said on Monday. (Photo: Chris Patten in London, July 5, 2010/Peter Macdiarmid)

Various protests are expected during the first papal state visit to the country in September, including by secularists, gay rights groups and those angry at the child-abuse scandal which has spread throughout the Roman Catholic church globally.

With new Catholic leader in Hanoi, a breakthrough in sight?

Protesters wave banners in support of Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet of Hanoi outside the city's cathedral, 7 May 2010/Nguyen Huy Kham

Hanoi Catholics held a ceremony last Friday to welcome the man who is expected to become their new archbishop, but for many on hand – priests and faithful alike – it was a moment of sadness. There were no flowers at the altar of Hanoi’s 124-year-old cathedral welcoming Peter Nguyen Van Nhon, 72, to the role of coadjutor bishop. Outside on the steps, several dozen people brandished banners in protest of what his papal appointment represented.

It’s not that they had anything personal against Nhon, who is head of Vietnam’s bishops conference and hails from the southern city of Dalat. But Nhon happens to be taking over for Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet, 57, an archbishop who stood up to local Communist authorities by backing church groups embroiled in land disputes with the government in recent years.

Serbian church leader breaks with past, invites pope to Belgrade

irinej

Patriarch Irinej at a news conference in Belgrade, 28 Jan 2010/Ivan MIlutinovic

For all of Irinej Gavrilovic’s 80 years, his Serbian Orthodox Church has kept its distance from the Vatican and the pope, maintaining a division whose roots date back a millennium.  But only a few days into the job as the 45th Serbian Orthodox Patriarch, Irinej has several times repeated an invitation to the Roman Catholic pontiff, hoping that both men could celebrate a significant anniversary in 2013.

It was an expression of hope, not only that the churches could overcome past differences, but also that two men already in their 80s could make plans three years into the future.

On Thursday, Irinej discussed the invitation in a forum that none of his  recent predecessors had ever employed, the news conference, amid a give and take with a gaggle of reporters. There he said his church will be glad to welcome Pope Benedict to Serbia in 2013 in a bid to foster dialogue about reconciliation between two largest Christian communities, a millennium after their Great Schism.

Is a papal visit to Vietnam on the horizon?

Could the Pope make a historic visit to commmunist Vietnam later this year?  A papal envoy hinted at this on Thursday, as Vietnam and the Vatican are seriously discussing establishing diplomatic ties. “This is my wish,” Vatican Undersecretary of State Monsignor Pietro Parolin told reporters when asked if he thought the Pope could visit the Southeast Asian country this year. He added that the question had not been discussed in meetings with the Foreign Ministry and government’s religious affairs committee. (Photo: Priest outside a Hanoi court trying Catholics for illegal protests, 8 Dec 2008/stringer)

The papal envoy has been attending the first meeting of a joint working group on improving ties this week in Hanoi. He said the talks had made progress, but establishing ties was a process that will take time.

Roman Catholicism in Vietnam dates back centuries, even before French colonial rule. Now some 7 percent of mostly-Buddhist Vietnam’s population of 86 million are Catholic, making it one of the biggest Catholic communities in Asia.

Cardinal Martino does it again

Cardinal Renato Martino, the papal aide who angered Israel and Jews by comparing Gaza to a “big concentration camp” is no novice at being outspoken or controversial. The southern Italian cardinal speaks his mind, loves to talk and sometimes has had to pay the price. Martino, head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (effectively its justice minister), has a laundry list of people and governments with whom he has clashed. But that hasn’t stopped him. (Photo: Cardinal Martino at the Vatican, 12 April 2005/Tony Gentile)

Perhaps his most famous remark came in December, 2003 when, shortly after U.S. troops captured former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Martino told a news conference at the Vatican that U.S. military were wrong to show video footage of Saddam. “I felt pity to see this man destroyed, (the military) looking at his teeth as if he were a cow. They could have spared us these pictures,” he said at the time.

The “treated like a cow” remark was heard around the world and, needless to say, was not very appreciated in the White House. The Vatican had opposed the U.S.-invasion of Iraq in March of that year. In fact, a certain chill developed between Martino and then U.S. ambassador to the Vatican Jim Nicholson, a Vietnam veteran who later went on to become Bush’s Secretary for Veteran Affairs.

Pope lays down the law to French Catholic bishops

Pope Benedict in Lourdes, 15 Sept 2008/Regis DuvignauPope Benedict’s speech to France’s bishops at Lourdes was a classic example of an “iron first in a velvet glove” address. Delivered calmly and in elegant French, it basically laid down the law to a group that has been among the most critical in the Church of his turn towards traditional Catholicism. It was billed as a meeting but was in fact a monologue. He read it out without hardly ever looking at the 170 cardinals and bishops before him and left right after finishing the text.

“Benedict XVI gave the bishops a veritable road map to help them trace the paths of the future for the church in France,” wrote Jean-Marie Guénois, religion correspondent of Le Figaro. “He wanted this meeting. It’s the only one he imposed on the organisers. Which shows the importance, in his eyes, of what he wanted to tell them.”

The most striking part was his call to the bishops to make more place for traditionalists. The French bishops lobbied the Vatican last year before Benedict liberalised the use of the Tridentine Latin Mass, arguing that giving the traditionalists too much leeway would undermine the authority of the bishops. The “tradis” are especially strong in France, both in the form of those loyal to Rome and those who have broken with it. The culture war between them and the majority church is deeply rooted and mutual suspicion is strong. Bishops worry that traditionalists want to form a “church within a church” if given the slightest chance. Among mainstream Catholics, that can translate into a high sensitivity to anything seen as rolling back the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.