Preparations for the first state visit of a pope to Great Britain are in full swing. But not everyone expects Benedict XVI. with open arms. While many Catholics are pleased, others see the trip critically. Perhaps beatification can reconcile.
Organizers expect several hundred thousand faithful at events in Edinburgh, Birmingham and London. Those who can't see the pope in person can watch the church leader's visit to Britain via livestream on the Internet. Cameras follow the pope at every turn, and his supporters can share what's happening on the social networking sites Facebook and Twitter. But the faithful's anticipation is clouded.
Pope's opponents are planning a series of protests during the state visit, including a major demonstration to mark Benedict's arrival in London on Saturday. The newly appointed Catholic archbishop of Southwark, Peter Smith, asked organizers of the secular "Protest the Pope" movement to "respect" the faithful at a meeting at the London police headquarters on Wednesday. The Pope's opponents promised not to "disrupt" any of the planned events.
Anger over abuse cases
Still, no one can guarantee a smooth visit program. Anger is too great in some circles over abuse cases in the Catholic Church. On the eve of the pope's visit, abuse victims from around the world will hold a press conference in London to draw attention to their plight. A documentary on the abuse scandal will run on British television station BBC2 – produced by homosexual former Dominican priest Mark Dowd.
Meanwhile, a lobby group for the ordination of women to the priesthood is using the pope's visit for a bus campaign. Since late August, the slogan "Pope Benedict, ordain women – now" has been emblazoned on many of the world-famous red London buses!". The group "Catholic Women's Ordination" (CWO) has paid the equivalent of around 16 euros for this service.000 euros spent. Here and there on the streets you can also see people in purple T-shirts with the inscription "No hope for the Pope" ("No hope for the Pope").
Pope's visit divides Britons. While many Catholics are looking forward to Benedict XVI. while others are critical of the trip, not least because of the cost. According to estimates, the trip could swallow up more than 24 million euros. The Catholic Church in England and Wales is expected to contribute about seven million euros from its funds and donations from churchgoers, with taxpayers paying the rest. Even though it is officially a state visit, many lack the understanding to pay for part of the costs. According to polls, nearly 80 percent of Britons have "no personal interest" in the pope's visit. Even loyal churchgoers protest when a ticket to attend a service with the pope costs about six euros and involves a great deal of expense.
Strict security precautions
For example, those who attend Saturday's evening devotion at 18.3 p.m. in London's Hyde Park will probably have to join the queue at the entrance as early as 2 p.m. so that security staff can check all participants for dangerous objects; visitors had to register weeks in advance. Such lengthy processes and "excessive" security precautions discourage especially spontaneous visitors and young people from attending, says the leader of a Catholic student community: "If the organizers want young people to come, too, they simply have to be more flexible."
Comparatively uncontroversial, however, is the beatification of Anglican convert Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-1890), planned as the highlight of the papal trip. It is due to be shown on 19. September will take place in Birmingham, central England. After all, Newman is revered not only by Catholics but also by Anglicans. Perhaps his tribute can bring some reconciliation to Britons critical of the Pope.