A welcome wagon for the Popemobile?
With the pope due to arrive in the United Kingdom on Wednesday, there's plenty of question about the kind of welcome B16 will get when he touches down. The lead up has been bumpy to say the least, with many Brits questioning whether the papal visit is worth the expense, especially for security, that the papal swing through London, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Birmingham will cost. Even an Catholic News Service story posted here at uscatholic.org drew plenty of comment.
The papal visit has drawn out prominent atheists as well, whose published opinions have included Christopher Hitchens call for the pope to be arrested for abetting sex abuse. Today's coverage on the BBC website focuses more on whether the pope will relax the discipline of clerical celibacy, with about half of British Catholics in favor, though 62 percent favor the ordination of women, according to the small poll of 500.
Left largely unanswered is the question of whether the pope should make these kind of trips at all, which were virtually unheard of before Paul VI, though it was John Paul II who really made them a major part of his pontificate. In that short time, however, they have magnified the world presence of the pope in both the church throughout the world and in the eyes of people in general.
Still, how this trip will turn out is up for grabs. With prominent figures opposing the visit, new developments in the sex abuse scandal in Belgium, and a generally secular British public, it could go well or poorly. For a pope that has made the re-evangelization of Europe his priority, his English working holiday may prove a bellwether.