LONDON (Catholic Online) – The London Times has reported that Pope Benedict XVI will visit Britain next year. If this wonderful news is confirmed it will mark the first official visit by a Pope. Pope John Paul II made a pastoral visit in 1982. The Times reports that this historic visit will soon be confirmed by the Vatican.
It will take place next September. Further, that “…during his time in the country, expected to take place in September next year, Pope Benedict will have a meeting with the Queen, Supreme Governor of the Church of England and will be accorded the full panoply of a state visit. It is possible the Pope will also stay with the Queen at Buckingham Palace. Gordon Brown extended a formal invitation during a private audience in February and preparations have been under way for some time”
Having an apparent access to the itinerary, the Times indicated it will include visits to London, Birmingham, Oxford and Edinburgh. The report has led to rumors that the Holy Father’s visit may indicate that the beatification of John Henry Cardinal Newman might take place in Birmingham, at the site of the Oratory which was founded by the beloved convert to the Catholic faith. Newman is one of the highest profile converts from Anglican Christianity to the Roman Catholic Church. He is still beloved by the Anglican Christians who maintain their ties to Christian orthodoxy against the decline within their own church.
Other details of the itinerary: “The visit is expected to include an invitation to the Pope to address both houses of parliament at Westminster, in the same Westminster Hall where St Thomas More was tried and condemned in 1535 for opposing the Act of Supremacy. This was the act that made King Henry VIII "supreme head" of the emerging new Protestant body, the Church of England, signaling the formal breach with Rome”.
A visit by Pope Benedict to Britain may have implications for those within the Church of England who have witnessed their Church being torn from within over the last few decades. The decline of orthodoxy in that community has reached a critical stage where some observers think it is irreparable. There has been speculation over the plight of some within the broader Anglican community who openly discuss entry into full communion with the Catholic Church.
The “Traditional Anglican Communion”, one of many “splinter groups” which have arisen as a direct result of the Church of England’s movement away from classical Christian orthodoxy, has formally requested to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church. They have done so with a refreshing humility, agreeing to do whatever it would take. They still await a formal response from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith in Rome.
In an age which has witnessed a decline in Christianity on the European continent, Pope Benedict XVI is an ardent evangelizer, calling for a rebirth of Christianity in Europe. Some interpret the choice of his Papal name as a signal of his commitment to lead such a rebirth. I am numbered among them. We will closely follow the plans for this apostolic visit and invite our readers to pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the successor of the Apostle Peter.
St. Augustine of Canterbury was sent to what became England by another great Pope St. Gregory, in 669, to bring freedom to the inhabitants of that beautiful land through the proclamation of the full Gospel of Jesus Christ as found within the Church. Now, in the Third Millennium, the successor of Gregory is soon to do the same.
Pope Benedict XVI participated in the Second Vatican Council. He not only understands the authentic teaching of that Council but has led the way in its proper implementation in many areas of life, both within the Church and in her mission to the contemporary age. He also understands the way that the Council was hijacked in some circles, disregarded in others and absolutely misinterpreted in still others.
He is a voice for dynamically orthodox and faithful Catholic Christian faith, practice, worship and life. In his homily prior to the convening of the conclave where he would be chosen to fill the Chair of Peter, then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger gave a prophetic insight into the challenges of the age:
“How many winds of doctrine we have known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking... The small boat of thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves - thrown from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, and so forth.
Every day new sects are created and what Saint Paul says about human trickery comes true, with cunning which tries to draw those into error (cf Eph 4, 14). Having a clear faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism. Whereas, relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and "swept along by every wind of teaching," looks like the only attitude (acceptable) to today’s standards. We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires.”
Some attempted to misuse this prophetic insight to paint him as rejecting the modern world. That is nonsense. What he rejects, and rightly so, is the emptiness of modernity and post modernity. What he proposes is a different path, not to the past, but to a future of hope and authentic freedom. It is the truth that paves that path to authentic human flourishing and freedom. It is found in Jesus Christ, the “Way, the Truth and the Life.”
Jesus reminds every person in every age, that we can “know the truth” and that “the truth will set you free.” Benedict is his mouthpiece and Vicar. Those who watch the early days of Popes tell us to watch for two things, the name they choose and the content of their first homily. He chose the name Benedict. One of the young priests who commentated during his assumption of the Papal office noted that then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger visited Subiaco before all the events began. He prayed and rededicated himself to the work of the Church for the future. Interestingly, a short while later he took the name Benedict.
Saint Benedict was born around the year 480 in Umbria, Italy. He is the father of Western Monasticism and co-patron of Europe (along with Saints Cyril and Methodius).As a young man he fled a decadent and declining Rome for studies in order to give his life entirely to God. He went to Subiaco. The cave that became his dwelling is now a shrine called "Sacro Speco" (The Holy Cave), which is a sanctuary for pilgrims.
Pope Benedict XVI is a re-builder, working in continuity with the 2,000 year teaching of the Catholic Church by helping to ensure that the proper understanding of the Second Vatican Council becomes a reality. He has surprised many in the area of authentic ecumenism. He is leading the Church into a truly “Catholic” Millennium. His overtures toward our Orthodox brethren are bearing fruit.
I believe we are witnessing the beginnings of the coming full communion of the Church, East and West, as the "two lungs" on the One Body of Christ begin to breathe together again in order to animate this new missionary age. Pope Benedict, like his namesake, is helping to bring a Christian influence back to Europe. This mission has not been easy. And, it will probably get more difficult.
The old adage is true; it always seems darkest before the dawn. Those who hoped to change the teaching and doctrine of the Catholic Church are deeply disappointed. However, for all who hunger for a vibrant, faithful, dynamically orthodox Catholic Church, the source of all truth, the God who is Truth, has been true to his promise to Peter, "upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against her". Pope Benedict XVI is a gift.
May this visit to England hasten the recovery a dynamically orthodox Christian witness in that Nation; one which opens up the path to the recovery of a genuinely Christian Europe and the continued unfolding of a new missionary age.