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Judgments on the recent visit to Britain of Pope Benedict XVI have been coming in thick and fast over the past week or so. Here is my comment for the current issue of the Baptist Times.
We here in the UK have had blanket coverage of the Pope’s visit, which has apparently been global. On the whole the coverage irritated me, because, as always, the trivial dominated public debate. ‘Pope’s battle to save Christmas’ was a typical headline. ‘Pope: don’t let the PC brigade wreck Christmas’ – screamed Murdoch’s Sun newspaper. These headlines derive from the Pope’s speech at Westminster where he was quoted as saying that “there are those who argue that the public celebration of festivals such as Christmas should be discouraged, in the questionable belief that it might somehow offend those of other religions or none.”
As Pope Benedict's visit to the UK comes to an end, I am left with a sense of sadness. Despite the words of Archbishop Vincent Nichols, attempting to paint the visit as he would perhaps have wished it to be – an endorsement of pluralism and a call to quiet dialogue rather than shrill confrontation, it seems hard to imagine a clearer example of differing cultures failing to understand each other than we have observed over the past few days.