In his missionary trip to the United Kingdom the Pope proclaimed, without either compromise or triumphalism, that the fullness of that Gospel is found within the full communion of the Catholic Church. He pointed out that the path toward the recovery of Western Civilization is through the recovery of its Christian soul.He called the faithful to a New Evangelization and called for a Re-Christianizing of Europe. This missionary task will not be without opposition. He also knows it will require great sacrifice and heroic virtue.
LONDON, UK (Catholic Online) - On Sunday, September 19, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI left the United Kingdom, giving a gracious farewell address at the Birmingham airport. There is a near universal acclaim for the pastoral visit of the successor of Peter. The crowds, the depth of his messages in every venue, the obvious hunger of the faithful for the truth of the ancient faith, all added together to make this trip both memorable and historic.
However, though Pope Benedict has physically departed and returned to Rome, the mission he elaborated in this historic four day visit has only just begun. It is the New Evangelization of the Church in the United Kingdom and then, through her, the unfolding of a new missionary age dedicated to re-Christianizing the European continent.
The reaction of the secular Press to this Papal visit is worth noting. Only a few months ago that press was predicting the Pope would be arrested upon arrival. If not, that he would at least be greeted with throngs of angry protestors. Ironically, though there were some protests, the numbers were relatively small. The real numbers in this story were the massive crowds which gathered in every one of his venues to listen to this humble and deeply reflective Christian leader. The response of the secular press is revealed in comments made by David Wiley of the BBC news:
"What has struck seasoned observers of papal tours is that people everywhere have responded spontaneously to the Pope's evident humility and his ability, even when talking serious theology, to communicate simple moral concepts in plain language. At the very start of his homily at the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman, the Pope struck a chord that resonated among his audience. As David Cameron plans to say later, as he bids farewell to the Pope, the 83-year-old pontiff has caused the whole country to sit up and think."
However, the Pope did more than call the UK to "sit up and think", he called the Nation to kneel down and pray. The theme of the visit, "Heart Speaks to Heart" was adapted from the beautiful insight of Blessed John Henry Newman which he chose as his motto upon being elevated as a Cardinal of the Church. Pope Benedict XVI came as a successor of the Apostle Peter and evangelized the United Kingdom afresh by conquering the heart of the realm with the liberating message of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of all men and women.
He called the people of the United Kingdom to reflect on their Christian history, return to their roots and fall on their knees. The Pope proclaimed the God who alone can satisfy the hunger of every human heart, the One who is fully revealed in Jesus Christ - who continues His redemptive mission through the Church which is His Body. This pastoral visit of Pope Benedict XVI was, above all else, a mission trip.
Catholic Online presented the text of his homilies and allocutions throughout the weekend. They were profound, prophetic, and passionate. This Pope who coined the phrase "Dictatorship of Relativism" while preaching at a Mass just prior to his being chosen to occupy the Chair of Peter, pulled no punches. He offered the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the weapon with which to fight against the tyranny of this dictatorship of relativism and the nihilism which accompanies its ugly reign. Right before he began his service to the Church and the world as Pope then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger warned of this "Dictatorship of Relativism" with these words:
"How many winds of doctrine have we known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking? The small boat of the thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves - flung from one extreme to another: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism and so forth. Every day new sects spring up, and what St Paul says about human deception and the trickery that strives to entice people into error (cf. Eph 4: 14) comes true.
"Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be "tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine", seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires.
"We, however, have a different goal: the Son of God, the true man. He is the measure of true humanism. An "adult" faith is not a faith that follows the trends of fashion and the latest novelty; a mature adult faith is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ. It is this friendship that opens us up to all that is good and gives us a criterion by which to distinguish the true from the false, and deceit from truth. We must develop this adult faith; we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith."
In his missionary trip to the United Kingdom the Pope proclaimed, without either compromise or triumphalism, that the fullness of that Gospel is found within the full communion of the Catholic Church. He pointed out that the path toward the recovery of Western Civilization is through the recovery of its Christian soul. He called the flock of Christ to this kind of "adult faith" and he charged the Church to a new missionary age.
The Pope knows that this missionary task will not be without opposition. He also knows it will require great sacrifice and heroic virtue. In his address to an open air prayer vigil on the eve of the beatification of John Henry Cardinal Newman he spoke to 80,000 people gathered in Hyde Park. He called attention to the example of Christian martyrs executed at Tyburn for fidelity to the Catholic faith. Tyburn is a symbol of horrid persecution in the face of State sponsored hostility. There, Catholic men and women were tortured and executed for the ancient Christian faith handed down to us from the apostles.
It was declared to be an act of "high treason" to be a Catholic priest or even to associate with Catholic priests back during those dark days. 105 Martyrs went to their death for their heroic fidelity to Jesus Christ and His Body, the Catholic Church. They would not compromise. His message to the faithful was clear. Neither can we compromise in the face of the current Dictatorship of Relativism.
He told the faithful "Not far from here, at Tyburn, great numbers of our brothers and sisters died for the faith. In our own time, the price to be paid for fidelity to the gospel is no longer being hanged, drawn and quartered, but it often involves being dismissed out of hand, ridiculed and parodied...the church cannot withdraw from the task of proclaiming Christ and his gospel as saving truth, the source of our ultimate happiness as individuals and as the foundation of a just and humane society".
His parting message to his brother Bishops was also straightforward: "In the course of my visit it has become clear to me how deep a thirst there is among the British people for the Good News of Jesus Christ. You have been chosen by God to offer them the living water of the Gospel, encouraging them to place their hopes, not in the vain enticements of this world, but in the firm assurances of the next.
"As you proclaim the coming of the Kingdom, with its promise of hope for the poor and the needy, the sick and the elderly, the unborn and the neglected, be sure to present in its fullness the life-giving message of the Gospel, including those elements which call into question the widespread assumptions of today's culture.
"As you know, a Pontifical Council has recently been established for the New Evangelization of countries of long-standing Christian tradition, and I would encourage you to avail yourselves of its services in addressing the task before you. Moreover, many of the new ecclesial movements have a particular charism for evangelization, and I know that you will continue to explore appropriate and effective ways of involving them in the mission of the Church."
He came, he saw, he conquered hearts. Now the real work begins.
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