Catholics in Britain
Nick Weido | Monday, September 27, 2010
Monday, Sept. 20 I was afforded the rare opportunity of a personalized tour of Westminster Abbey in London. Not only did I examine the grave sites of Mary Queen of Scots, Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin, but also something much more powerful. What made the tour even more amazing was that the current Pope, Benedict XVI, had been at the Abbey just days before in his first visit to the United Kingdom, and first papal visit to the UK since 1982.
In the weeks leading up to the Pope’s visit, the British media was engulfed in a political and religious firestorm as pundits raged back and forth criticizing and defending the Pope, the Vatican and the Catholic faith. The current papacy has been tarnished by the recent priest sexual abuse allegations that rocked the Vatican earlier this year. Pope Benedict XVI has been demonized and criticized in the British press for appearing to fail to take sufficient action to address the matter with some individuals calling for his arrest for crimes against humanity and others attacking the Pope’s conservative approach to the allegations.
Regardless of the swirling controversy, the Pope’s visit to Britain was history in the making. His meeting and prayer, both public and private, with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Church of England, was taken as a sign of a reconciliation that began nearly a century ago as Roman Catholics try to reconcile with their Anglican brethren. Fundamental issues concerning the ordination of women and the use of birth control divide the faiths, but the Pope focused on the “deep friendship” between himself and the Archbishop and the similarities between both Churches.
It was a powerful moment to kneel at the prayer bench in front of the shrine of Edward the Confessor at the very same spot the Pope and the Archbishop prayed only a few days before. I got to sit in the same seat the Pope sat in. Just gazed up at the ornate gothic pillars of the Abbey and could only think in wonder. I managed to steal yellow and white rose petals to keep as a momento, and I pressed them in my planner. To be that close to both heads of the two largest Churches in the world was to be close to God, and the ethereal splendor of the Abbey only heightened the sensation. It is an event that I may never see again in my lifetime, and it is one I will carry with me.