I am tremendously encouraged by the success of the Papal visit last week. Amid the frenzy of tabloid cynicism, at the apex of his Holiness’ engagement with the public, the crowds in Hyde Park peaked at 70,000.
It would be wrong, however, for the Pope’s followers and admirers to allow themselves the vain or even proud euphoria of considering the crowds a gauge of success. His Holiness addressed a subject of the utmost importance to all of British society – touching many of the most influential people in the country today. Lest we should forget, this was the purpose of his state visit.
Our society is built on the foundations of Christian principle. Fought for and entwined in our constitution, even disastrously edited from time to time, these norms are alive today to the extent that we still enjoy relative freedom and safety. A free society is a society in which those in charge are humble servants. This understanding is brought to us by a message, which was preserved and maintained for us over two millennia – mostly by the church. His Holiness addressed every section of our society, and what was so wonderful about his message was his deft and articulate summary of the way in which religion can help us navigate the notouriously intangible seas of good and evil. That single source of corrective authority is simple but effective. In a word: elegant. I can think of none other that has stood the test of twenty centuries.
From where we stand, on the shoulders of giants, there are those who try to undermine our ancient norms to establish a society confined to the narrow parameters of a synthetic reason – borne of the desire to set up a “rival good to God’s.” But the newspaper columns, which devoted themselves to scandal and corruption within the church, seem to have softened in reflection of the public opinion and I believe that the Church’s message, not the media frenzy and the protests, will be the enduring legacy of this visit.