Ten years since Pope Benedict's Apostolic Visit!
The other day I watched the full video of his Mass in Westminster Cathedral. It really is fun unexpectedly spotting Good Eggs on screen. Among the concelebrants, the great Mgr Andrew Wadsworth (Yes!! I hear everyone's cries of Vescovo subito!!!); and a former Oxford friend, now much missed, Yakoub Banglash, nonchalantly poised in front of one of the cameras. And there is fun too in watching for the Bad Eggs ... not that I ever did spot the manly, photogenic features of Kieran Conry. But of more Bad Eggs, more in the next paragraph ...
The Mass was probably very close to being what most of the more moderately modernising Fathers of Vatican II imagined they were signing up to when they voted for Sacrosanctum concilium; Latin dominated, including the Roman Canon; but there were some Propers and Intercessions in English. In the Canon, it is always interesting to listen carefully to those senior concelebrants who have parts of the Great Prayer assigned to them to deliver individually. Cormac Murphy O'Connor, who had the good fortune of being ordained well before the Rupture and thus for more than a decade had experience of saying the Canon daily, was smooth and accurate. So, interestingly, was Cardinal Keith O'Brien (he had a couple of years of the old culture).
Archbishop Vincent Nichols (priested in December 1969), on the other hand, gave the impression of not being quite within his comfort zone.
There was just one slight whiff of overt dissatisfaction; the then Archbishop of Cardiff did not conceal that Welsh Catholics were rather disappointed that the Sovereign Pontiff's itinerary had not included the Principality. Hardly surprising. I didn't blame His Grace for giving everyone, in completely justified retaliation, an extensive experience of the Welsh Language! Served them right! I would have done exactly the same.
And I had felt that Pope Benedict should have been allowed to go to Walsingham; I recall that his Predecessor had also wished to go there, and was irritated to be prohibited (you may remember that, as a consolation prize, S John Paul II was told that our Lady of Walsingham would be at his main Mass; he couldn't see her statue when he arrived to celebrate Mass, and gave peremptory instructions that she should at once be moved onto the Altar itself).
I expect the English Bishops felt a bit ashamed to show Roman Pontiffs the distinctly shabby 1960s Catholic shrine at Walsingham, especially as they would probably have had to allow them to peep inside the gloriously 1930s and Tridentine Anglican shrine. Happily, they subsequently took matters in hand by giving the Catholic Shrine to the admirable Mgr Armstrong as Administrator; now Philip Moger has the job. He is a Protonotary Apostolic, which guarantees that he must be a good thing. I trust that by the next time I get to the Vale of the Stiffkey, that great horrible barn will have been transformed by the addition of fifteen 'Rosary' altars for all the Vetus Ordo Masses that the younger generation of clergy will be queuing up to celebrate. Bagsie me, Fathers, the Annunciation. I will hope for a grand reredos with pillars of (at least) scagliola and a magnificent painting by (at least Studio of) Tiepolo.
And Oxford. I wonder why Pope Benedict didn't come here? Could it have anything to do with the aggressive secularism of so many in the modern University? Or were the English bishops opposed? When preaching the University Sermon in Latin in the University Church (the sort of thing that still happens once a year in Oxford) in the January after the papal visit to England, I lamented at some length on the sadness that so very erudite a Pontiff should not be able to visit this great shrine of all the scientiae, and to see Newman's Altar and Newman's Pulpit (which I was at that moment preaching from). I still think the same. And Benedict XVI would have been the first to understand that Saint John Henry belongs to Anglicans as well as to Catholics, and that Oxford is the symbol of that.
Cardinal Manning might have agreed as well ... you remember his criticism of Newman ... "the old Oxford literary Patristic tone" ...
Such crimes! ... such blessings ...
(1) I think that the Welsh prelate was the then Bishop of Wrexham.
(2) Philip Moger was an outstanding Dean of Leeds Cathedral.
Armstrong? Do you mean Armitage?
No I was not aware of the incident with the statue of OLW. I was told by someone close by in the procession, of Archbishop Marcinkus attempting to steer JPII and receiving the papal elbow forcibly in the ribs. He noted that with some pleasure, having found Marcinkus massively irritating during the preparations for the visit.
I was told - but haven’t checked it’s validity - that the reason Pope Benedict did NOT visit Oxford was because an honorary degree had been removed from him.
The University was minded to award him one; but fell under political pressure to ‘ask the opinion’ of the Theological faculty: Being Modernists in disguise they thought Benedict was far too orthodox and shouldn’t be given such recognition.
An adviser to the Oxford Tourist Board claimed that the non-visit of Benedict caused both the town and University a loss of £10 million.
Fr Peter Geldard
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