Benedict XVI is visiting the United Kingdom this week, and opinion pages and blogs are alive with ideas about how he should be received.
Johann Hari's scorchingly critical column on Pope Benedict XVI appeared in last week's Independent in London.
I want to appeal to Britain's Roman Catholics now, in the final days before Joseph Ratzinger's state visit begins. I know that you are overwhelmingly decent people. You are opposed to covering up the rape of children. You are opposed to telling Africans that condoms "increase the problem" of HIV/Aids. You are opposed to labelling gay people "evil". The vast majority of you, if you witnessed any of these acts, would be disgusted, and speak out. Yet over the next fortnight, many of you will nonetheless turn out to cheer for a Pope who has unrepentantly done all these things.
I believe you are much better people than this man. It is my conviction that if you impartially review the evidence of the suffering he has inflicted on your fellow Catholics, you will stand in solidarity with them – and join the protesters.
The blogger Church Mouse takes a rather different tack:
1. Despite some theological differences, we should treat the Roman Catholic church as our brothers and sisters in Christ, and as such we should share the experience of the visit with them in the spirit of Christian unity.
2. We should not seek to "take sides" in any of the Catholic debates on reforms of the Church. It would be unhelpful to all within the Catholic Church if one side was seen to be 'backed' by sections of the Church of England, not to mention hypocritical on our part, given the divisions in our own Church.
3. We should defend the Catholic Church and the Pope from the more extreme anti-Christian attacks on him, which are in reality attacks on all Christians. Bishop Christopher Hill explained that "Today’s opposition focuses on Pope Benedict, gaining some support in the light of the terrible cases of clerical abuse, but intellectually it represents an attack on all Christians, indeed on faith." Mouse reckons that is true to a large extent, as the most vicious attacks are not based on reason and logic, but on hatred.
4. We should use the opportunity afforded by the visit to move discussion of the Ordinariate from behind closed doors to out in the open. Mouse's guess is that there are very few people who will be leaving the Church of England under the scheme, but to have the threat held beneath the surface is damaging to the church.
Finally, Simon Sarmiento has excerpts from a feature in The Tablet on what several prominent figures, including Canon Lucy Winkett and the historian Diarmaid MacCulloch, discuss what they would say if they had "Five Minutes with the Pope.: