The Queen welcomes the Pope to Britain this morning at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Her task is formal and constitutional, for this is the first state visit by a pope, and it must without exaggeration be called historic. But the task will be congenial for the Queen, too. She was the first British monarch to pay a state visit to the Vatican, in 1980. “We support the growing movement of unity between the Christian Churches throughout the world,” she told Pope John Paul II then, as she invited him to visit her kingdom in 1982. There is no embarrassment here. The Queen is confident in her Christian belief and in her duty to uphold the Protestant religion to which she swore at her Coronation. She is equally confident of the loyalty of her Catholic subjects.
To the whole nation, the Pope’s visit holds up a mirror. What kind of people are we? We like to think that we are tolerant. We defend the right of secularist critics to protest against the Pope, without violence. Yet Britain is no secular country. It has an established Church. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primate of All England, is as hopeful for the Christian benefits of the visit as is the Queen, the Supreme Governor of that Church. Dr Williams has far more in common with the Pope than a fondness for cats: their shared hope is in the Church’s one foundation. True, numbers going to church here have taken a dip since 1982. But it is lazy to presume that materialist secularism inevitably replaces faith. As Baroness Warsi, the first Muslim woman in the Cabinet, said yesterday: “Our world is more religious than ever.” She had Christianity, Islam and Judaism in mind, and her words echoed the Prime Minister’s warm welcome to the Pope. More than materialism, he said, society “should be about shared values and working for the common good”.
Less fatuous-sounding, concise translation: Religion holds all forms of privileged conservative authority together quite nicely, thank you very much. Also, atheists are all immoral and opposed to society. Ta. Bye.
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]Obsequious Telegraph editorial loves Queen, country, and Pope,