Another good speech from Pope Benedict XVI, grand in historical sweep and intellectual
clarity. His softly spoken, yet heavily-accented, English demands some mental concentration. And it was funny watching some of the tired looking politicians squinting as they tried to figure out
what on earth the Pontiff was saying.
But if his voice was tricky to hear, his message was reasonably clear. He was effusive in his praise for this country’s parliamentary history, for common law, and for British democracy. At
the same time, he did not shrink from suggesting that modern Britain is at risk of detaching itself from the Christian philosophical tradition that underpins everything that he believes is good
about our free society. He spoke powerfully of ‘the fragility’ of a secular western civilisation without God.
It was a good combination of praise and kindly concern. It was generous of Benedict to applaud Britain’s role in the abolition of slavery, a Protestant inspired feat about which, he said,
Britain could ‘justly proud’. But he told the assembled pols to remember that there must be a dialogue of faith and reason to enhance human understanding. He stumbled a little towards
the end, but it was quite touching when he raised his voice and said ‘God Bless All of You’ and his listeners burst into a long and loud applause. One sensed that some of the great
bitterness of the Reformation had just been formally put away.