In case you haven't noticed, the Pope is in London. Millions have come out to see him, the papers are full of it. The media has been awash with the chattering classes giving their opinion. Richard Dawkins must be chuffed as he's been rolled out time and again to tell us all his views. Stephen Fry has jumped on the bandwagon. These pundits take the view that the Pope shouldn't have been invited because, unlike the 5 million Roman Catholics in Great Britain, they don't like him. Gay rights campaigners such as Peter Tatchell have been out on the streets protesting. I never really imagined Tatchell getting into bed with Ian Paisley, but this is one of the stranger effects of the pope's visit.
People have asked me what I think of the protests (for those of you who don't know, I'm a Roman Catholic). I think it is great. If people feel strongly enough about something to protest, they should. I don't agree with many of the protestors, but so long as the protestors are peaceful and don't prevent other people from enjoying the visit, it is perfectly right and proper for them to protest. I am sure the Pope himself is actually chuffed. All of the debate has caused huge interest in the visit.
Many people forget that until 1829, it was illegal to be a Roman Catholic. Untold numbers of people died as a result of the reformation and the religious infighting. Roman Catholics couldn't legally practise their faith. There are still vestiges of this discrimination in the Act of Settlement, which prevents a Roman Catholic becoming monarch. For the Pope to formally visit Queen Elizabeth II is a sign of the progress we've made. We live in a tolerant society. We can say what we like. If we don't like someone, we can protest and that can only be a good thing. A society where a Papal visit didn't spark a few protests would be a society I couldn't live in. If we only tolerated protests we agreed with, we'd have no freedom at all. That is why, even though I don't agree with the protestors, the fact they are there shows we live in a healthy democracy.
I won't be going to see the Pope tonight, although my son will. I'm going around to see some friends and celebrate the end of the Yom Kippur Fast. This isn't a comment on the Pope, its what we always do on this day. We live in a multi racial, multi cultural, multi faith society and that to me is something worth celebrating. I believe Londoners love a bit of Pomp and ceremony. We know we are the capital of the world and as such it is only right that the Pope should come to see us. I hope he has a good time and all of those who see him get something great from the experience