September 16, 2010

Pope urges people of Great Britain to preserve Christian tradition

EDINBURGH, Scotland (CNS) -- Arriving in Scotland on the first leg of a four-day visit to Great Britain, Pope Benedict XVI appealed for preservation of the country's long Christian tradition and warned against "aggressive" forms of secularism and atheism.

"Your forefathers' respect for truth and justice, for mercy and charity come to you from a faith that remains a mighty force for good in your kingdom, to the great benefit of Christians and non-Christians alike," the pope said Sept. 16 at a reception with Queen Elizabeth II and more than 400 distinguished guests at Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, the Scottish capital.

The pope evoked the moral heroism of a long line of British figures, from Florence Nightingale to Cardinal John Henry Newman, whom the pope was to beatify during the visit. Christian witness was also evident during World War II against a "Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society," he said.

"As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the 20th century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society," he said.

In an unusual courtesy gesture, the queen sent her husband, Prince Philip, to greet the pope when he arrived at the Edinburgh airport after a two-hour flight from Rome. The pope looked eager to begin his busy program in Britain, and on the plane he told reporters he felt confident the country would give him a respectful reception -- despite differences with some critics of religion.

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The pope outlined an argument for the place of religion in public affairs, emphasizing that British saints and other leading Christians have "shaped the nation for good at the deepest level." While Great Britain today strives to be a multicultural society, he said, it must respect the traditional values and cultural expressions "that more aggressive forms of secularism no longer value or even tolerate."

He said the British media have a big responsibility in shaping the ideas and culture of its society and in promoting the "honesty, respect and fair-mindedness" for which the country is known.

Queen Elizabeth also underlined the importance of Britain's Christian heritage and told the pope that his visit also is a reminder of "the Christian contribution to the encouragement of world peace and to the economic and social development of the less prosperous countries of the world...."

Courtesy Catholic News Service

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