I recognise that the visit is over and most people have moved on but if only to prove I'm still alive I thought I would share some rambling thoughts.
1. I’m not sure why it was made a ‘state’ rather than ‘pastoral’
visit but I’m not convinced this was wise. Notwithstanding the opportunities it
gave for the Pope to address politicians and my desire that this country treats
visitors with courtesy and respect, a state visit sends unfortunate messages
about the links between church and state as well as raising questions about the
appropriateness of using taxpayers money to fund the visit.
2. My highlight was undoubtedly the events in Lambeth
Palace and Westminster Abbey, not
least because I was fascinated by the way that both Ratzinger and Williams
navigated their way through a complex ecumenical moment with grace and
theological acumen without compromising their views. There is a lesson here that
ecclesiology matters because important issues are at stake yet they can be
handled with tact and love.
3. Whilst some of the elements in worship services were
magnificent (particular credit to Anglican Church / Westminster Abbey) there
were elements in the open air services that were dire. (Though I was impressed
by Anne Widdecombe’s succinct explanation of transubstantiation on Sky News).
4. The Catholic Church
missed an opportunity. Whilst I’ve been interested in what the Pope had to say
by focussing his visit round the church based set-piece events the visit lacked
an occasion to address the wider public in ways which could be understood by
those outside the church.
the longer term I suspect two aspects of this visit will be noted. First, the
Pope’s commitment to traditional Catholicism will be a bench mark in ecumenical
affairs. Second, the absence of substantial engagement with thorny issues means
that nothing has really changed.