At the end of a long day, it is a great pleasure to look back over the glorious success of the first stage of the visit of the Holy Father to Britain. I was premature in thinking that the negative coverage would cease last night. It continued well on into the morning but the tide has now turned. 125,000 Scots turned out to cheer and wave flags as the Holy Father drove along Princes Street in Edinburgh. (In the interests of balance, I should note that there were about 60 protesters.) There were another 70,000 at the Mass at Bellahouston Park, near Glasgow. They had to get there early so must be counted in addition to those lining the streets of Edinburgh.
After spending the morning at home covering the meeting of the Holy Father and Her Majesty the Queen, and the afternoon at the QEII media centre at Westminster covering the Bellahouston Mass, I returned to the parish to call into the Social Club. It was most reassuring to hear some down to earth South Londoners taking the mickey out of this morning's coverage on breakfast TV with its absurd focus on the "empty seats." SKY carries EWTN, so I claimed a special concession to replace the sport with the highlights of the papal visit. There were hoots of laughter at the panoramic pictures of the vast crowd and mocking references to the TV host's assertion "Lots of empty seats, John."
The video above is a good compilation of highlights from this morning's meeting which was a moving introduction to the Apostolic journey. Fr Z has the transcript of the Pope's pres conference on the aeroplane on the way to Scotland. Most people focussed on his comments on child abuse (which were excellent) but I think this comment bears highlighting:
"Where there is anti-Catholicism I will go forward with great courage and joy"A Vatican insider to whom I spoke last week was nervous about the visit (and particularly about the lack of enthusiasm of some Catholics who should know better.) He said to me that the first day would be crucial. I agree with him - and thankfully the first day has been a roaring success.
I did make some negative comments about some aspects of the liturgy at Bellahouston Park. These need to be kept in perspective. Whilst it is right to push for a better celebration of the Sacred Liturgy, we should not lose sight of the tremendous success of today: and you are in for a rare liturgical treat at the Papal Mass at Westminster on Saturday morning. The arrangements for that are superb and will stand as a model for the celebration of the usus recentior.
Tomorrow you will have to grit your teeth a little for the paraliturgical services prepared by the Catholic Education Service for the events at Strawberry Hill. Nevertheless, the addresses of the Holy Father concerning Catholic education will be well worth pondering in detail. In the afternoon, as well as a popemobile ride across Lambeth Bridge and along Millbank to the Palace of Westminster, we look forward to the Holy Father's address at the "Mother of Parliaments". By way of liturgical relief, a fine service has been prepared by the Church of England for the Holy Father's ecumenical visit to Westminster Abbey.
Time for a little sleep now. It is going to be another long day tomorrow - but another glorious one.