Culture & Religion
October Fri 22, 2010
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The Pope’s visit to Great Britain has been an historical event and a hope for the future.
To understand the significance of the visit, one has to call to mind something of its historical context: Henry VIII’s break with Rome nearly five hundred years ago, the centuries of violence which followed, the persecution and execution of Catholics (among them, figures like Thomas More, John Fisher and Edmund Campion) as well as Protestants, the revision of our history through laws adopted in Parliament and the resulting conception of England as a Nation distinct and separate from its European brothers, proud child of its own tradition, the introduction of Protestantism, the progressive secularization of our country in recent decades, the weakening of the Anglican Church increasingly diluted in an ever more pluralistic society, to the point of becoming perhaps one of the most modern and liberal societies in the world today.
This “modern” idea is the one radically reflected in the media on the eve of the Pope’s visit, which heralded a cold and even antagonistic reception of the pontiff, while proclaiming the irrelevance of the faith to the problems of the man of today.
However, such a modernist vision would be a tremendous reduction of who we are. And, thank God, it has in fact been possible to detect in recent times the signs of something new, something different, which defies this account. This change perhaps begins to reveal itself most clearly with John Henry Newman, eminent Anglican pastor, Oxford professor and lover of his country and tradition, whose conversion to Catholicism on 9 October 1845 was fruit of his recognition of the Catholic Church as the true root of our faith and culture, deposit of Christ’s full grace and work of the Divine.
Recent times have been witness to a closening of the Anglican Church to Rome through a process of positive dialogue (although nevertheless not without its difficulties), and to the mass conversion of a large group of Anglicans earlier this year making use of a special formula of incorporation created for them by the Pope. Nor would the conversion of Tony Blair a few years ago seem without significance.
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