The Church is enjoying a “Benedict bounce” following the Pope’s visit, Cardinal Keith O’Brien has said.
Addressing the Pope at Oscott College in Birmingham on the last day of the Holy Father’s British visit, the leader of Scotland’s Catholics thanked Benedict for “four wonderful days”.
He said: “It was a particular joy that you would arrive on the day of St Ninian. Your words, and very presence, brought back to us our ancient Christian heritage.
“The St Ninian scarf, which you so graciously wore, showed you were proud to be an honorary Scotsman just for a day.
“Already in Scotland we are talking about the ‘Benedict bounce’. Be assured, Holy Father, that we are bouncing back. You are reassuring us that Christianity is alive and well in our countries.”
Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, president of the bishops’ conference of England and Wales, also thanked the Pope before he left for Birmingham airport.
He said: “You are contributing richly to our history and the shaping of our future. Your visit to us was official. But our farewell to you is entirely personal.”
In an address to the Bishops of England, Scotland and Wales, Pope Benedict spoke about the warm welcome he had received in Great Britain: “In the course of my visit it has become clear to me how deep a thirst there is among the British people for the Good News of Jesus Christ.
“You have been chosen by God to offer them the living water the Gospel, encouraging them to place their hopes, not in the vain enticements of this world, but in the firm assurances of the next.”
The Pope’s four-day trip is largely seen as being a spectacular success, in spite of fears that it would be marred by protests or ignored. There were complaints by many groups at the £10m cost to taxpayers, many of whom considered it inappropriate to grant a state visit to a religious leader. Protests also focused around the child abuse scandal.
Pope Benedict, having met five abuse victims yesterday in London, raised the subject once again in his address to his bishops.
He said: “You have publicly acknowledged your deep regret over what has happened and the often inadequate way it was addressed in the past. The growing awareness of the extent of child abuse in society, its devastating effects, and the need to provide proper victim support should serve as incentive to share the lessons you have learned with the wider community.
“Indeed, what better way could there be of making reparation for these sins than by reaching out, in a humble spirit of compassion, towards children who continue to suffer abuse elsewhere? Our duty of care towards the young demands nothing less.”
“As we reflect on the human fragility that these tragic events so starkly reveal, we are reminded that, if we are to be effective Christian leaders, we must live lives of the utmost integrity, humility and holiness. As Blessed John Henry Newman once wrote: “ ‘O that God would grant the clergy to feel their weakness as sinful men and the people to sympathise with them and love them and pray for their increase in all good gifts of grace’ “.
Pope Benedict thanked the bishops for taking “painstaking care” about the new English translation of the Mass, and urged them to “seize the opportunity” to offer in-depth catechesis when the new text is introduced into parishes.
He also asked them to be generous in implementing Anglicanorum coetibus, which he said could “contribute positively” to relations between Anglicans and Catholics.
The Pope closed his speech by thanking the bishops warmly for their hospitality and “commending all you and the people you serve to the intercession of St Andrew, St David and St George, I am pleased to impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and to all the clergy, religious and lay faithful of England, Scotland and Wales”.
Afterwards Archbishop Nichols presented the Holy Father with a special edition of a text by fellow Bavarian, the 17th-century Venerable Bartholomew Holzhauser, before each bishop in turn said a few words to him.