Benedict XVI will travel to Great Britain

Source: FSSPX News

Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-1890)

Approximately thirty bishops from England and Wales made their Ad limina visit last month.  

During the traditional audience, Benedict XVI asked them to give “a warm and open-hearted welcome” to Anglicans who wish to enter the Catholic Church.  Alluding to the growing importance of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue within a highly diverse population such as that of Great Britain, the Pope exhorted the prelates particularly to “be generous in implementing the provisions of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus”, published in November 2009.  “I am convinced,” he continued, “that such groups will be a blessing for the entire Church.”

On this occasion, Benedict XVI mentioned for the first time the visit that he will make in England and Scotland, his seventeenth apostolic journey, scheduled for September 16-19, 2010.  The Supreme Pontiff requested that during “the months of preparation that lie ahead”, the bishops should “encourage the Catholics of England and Wales in their devotion”;  he gladly noted “many signs of living faith and devotion” among English Catholics.

In his address, given in English, the Holy Father recalled that the United Kingdom is “well known for its firm commitment to equality of opportunity” and noted that “the effect of some of the legislation designed to achieve this goal has been to impose unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities.”  Therefore he urged the bishops “to ensure that the Church’s moral teaching be always presented in its entirety and convincingly defended.  Fidelity to the Gospel in no way restricts the freedom of others—on the contrary, it serves their freedom by offering them the truth.”  He asked the bishops to keep insisting on their right to participate in the national debate in a respectful dialogue with the other elements of society.

The Supreme Pontiff emphasizes the negative effects of certain provisions of the new legislation on equality, the “Equality Bill”.  In some respects it “violates the natural law upon which the equality of all human beings is grounded and by which it is guaranteed”.  The Pope alluded to the fear of the Catholic Church in England that the “Equality Bill” could compel it to hire homosexuals or transsexuals as lay personnel, for instance, as teachers.

In addition, Benedict XVI mentioned the figure of the English cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-1890), whom he might beatify during his visit to Great Britain.  “[T]he truth revealed through Scripture and Tradition and articulated by the Church’s Magisterium … sets us free. Cardinal Newman realized this, and he left us an outstanding example of faithfulness to revealed truth by following that ‘kindly light’ wherever it led him, even at considerable personal cost.”  The Pope maintained that the Church today needs “great writers and communicators of [the] stature and integrity” of that Anglican who converted to Catholicism.  Alluding then to the Year of the Priest, the Holy Father recommended that the British Bishops set for their priests an example in their prayer and pastoral concern, and also in their love for preaching, all of which were dear to Cardinal Newman.  “Be close to your priests, and rekindle their sense of the enormous privilege and joy of standing among the people of God as alter Christus.” The Pope’s statements about the “Equality Bill” elicited harsh criticism from the media and militant groups that support secularization or the homosexual cause.  Naomi Phillips of the British Humanist Association declared that “this most recent attack against modern liberal values is another raison why we are opposed to the Pope’s visit to the United Kingdom.”

Archbishop Vincent Nichols, President of the Bishops Conference of England and Wales, was pleased to announce on the evening of February 1, 2010, that Benedict XVI had officially confirmed his trip to Great Britain;  he went on to say that the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, was also participating in preparations for that visit.  The Holy Father’s trip to Great Britain is “a good exercise of collaboration and partnership between the government, the Catholic Church and the Anglican Church,” Archbishop Nichols said.  A meeting between the Pope and the head of the Anglican Communion is foreseen, but the location has not yet been determined.