It was not surprising there was vehement public opposition ahead of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United Kingdom where the inroads of secularism have marginalised Christianity more deeply than in most countries of Europe (see page 4). Additionally, Britain was for centuries the heartland of a form of Protestantism characterised as much by what it opposed - Roman Catholicism - as for what it believed.
The Pope expected all this. Having grown up in Nazi Germany, lived through much of the Communist era, and seen the inroads of creeping secularism in Europe, he is uniquely placed to challenge the ideologies which have separated Europe from its Christian roots.
In hindsight, the papal visit to the United Kingdom will be recognised as successful on many levels. His meetings with the Queen and the Arch-bishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, both of whom admire him greatly for his moral leadership, helped address many of the deep-seated prejudices which exist against the Catholic Church.
His beatification of John Henry Newman, the great Englishman who bridged the Catholic-Anglican divide in the 19th century, emphasised the universality of the Catholic tradition, based on the twin pillars of faith and reason. Here I draw readers' attention to a Newman book launch at our Thomas More Centre on 15 October (see page 16) and a timely and interesting contribution by Bishop David Robarts (pages 15-17).
The Pope said of Newman, "This truly great Englishman lived an exemplary priestly life and through his extensive writings made a lasting contribution to Church and society both in his native land and in many other parts of the world. It is my hope and prayer that more and more people will benefit from his gentle wisdom and be inspired by his example of integrity and holiness of life."
These words could equally be applied to Pope Benedict himself.
Peter Westmore is Publisher of AD2000.