Straight Talking with Ian Mean

Will the Pope’s Visit Open Up a Debate on Our Values?

Posted in Uncategorized by ianmean on September 19, 2010

Whether you are a Catholic or not, you cannot fail to have been impressed by the Pope’s visit which ended yesterday.

Whether you are even religious or not, you will have had to admit that despite the dark clouds which hung over the Catholic church before his visit due to sexual abuse by some priests, this was an amazing visit.

In Pope Benedict XV1, we had a man almost demonised by some segments of the media for membership of the Hitler youth movement just because he was German at a time when that tyrannical regime was all-powerful over young people.

But when he came here we saw and heard a man who spoke for a church, which whether you support Catholic beliefs or not, made so much common sense.

Have we ever really been treated to much so candour from a churchman in this country?

No, we haven’t and it is to his great credit that he flew out of Birmingham airport last night with the debate on values in society literally ringing in our ears.

Forget he was Catholic. The Pope’s messages were for us all here in Gloucestershire.

He confronted the scandal of the paedofile priests head- on when he met some of those who suffered at their evil hands. He expressed “deep sorrow and shame” for their vile acts.

He defended Christianity saying that we must preserve the right to celebrate Christmas. The Pope attacked the politically correct ideas that Christmas should not be celebrated here for fear of offending minorities.

Absolutely right.

And he said that Christians would not be silenced—forced to keep their beliefs to themselves.

When he visited an old people’s home run by the Little Sisters of The Poor in south east London, he gave another big message that is so pertinent to us in Gloucestershire with a growing population of old people—that the elderly must be respected.

As he said, we are blessed with our old people.

Hardly controversial messages. Just simple messages spoken with great candour.

These are the sort of accessible message that people want to hear, irrespective of whether you follow the Catholic faith or not.

For the hundreds of people from Gloucestershire, especially young people who went to see the Pope in London and Birmingham over the weekend, these are messages that will hopefully resonate with them for the rest of their lives.

Pope Benedict, like the legendary and much loved, ever smiling Pope John Paul, is a great communicator despite a welter of appalling, unwarranted press criticism before the visit.

That is what the Church of England in needs to do a great deal more—simply communicate better.

The pictures that appeared in our national newspapers on Saturday of the Pope with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, said it all.

The rift between the Catholic Church and the Church of England is narrowing. But our clergy of the Church of England must make bigger efforts to be more accessible to our people.

In Gloucestershire, we have been making the right steps but they are only the first steps.

In Michael Perham we have a Bishop who is very much a man of the people and our communities here in the county. He is a man of letters and writing but has realised that he needs to get among people and their communities to make a lasting difference.

We have a great Dean of our beautiful cathedral in Nicholas Bury. We saw just how good he is on Thursday evening when he gave a brilliant “peacemakers” sermon at the service we helped to organise with the county council to welcome the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps to the county.

Nick retires this month, and we need to ensure that we have another Christian leader like him who is not afraid to stand up and be counted.

The Pope’s visit and forthright comments serve to remind us that the Church of England must do far more to communicate.

Unless they do so, more churches will close.

But above all that are the moral values that the Pope has reminded us of over this weekend. They have nothing to do with any religion but everything to do with being good people.

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