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Papal Visit: First Impressions

The Pontiff with scarf

1) As largely expected, no show: no “ground kissing”, no crowds at the airport.
2) Motorcade could have been better: the Holy Father squeezed into a Jaguar XJ (wonderful car, but almost a coupe’); the car is a fairly new product and a beautiful example of the ability of the British automotive industry. One cannot avoid to suspect that the vehicle was chosen with publicity, more than the Holy Father’s comfort, in mind. Those of you who follow these things will have noticed the “60” registration: the car was registered after the 1 September 2010. The rest of the motorcade was a heterogeneous mixture of BMWs (the “5” at the head), Range Rover, Range Rover Sport, even a MPV. Different colours. Not really impressive.
3) Holy Father less fragile than I had expected. Looks like he can bury Hitchens, easily, and pray for his soul after he has gone. He went up the stairs of the welcome podium unaided and with rather sure foot; his voice is firm. My congratulations to the other two, in splendid form. The Queen walking with the Pope reminded me of dear Margaret Rutherford.
4) Thankfully, Pope Benedict has not waited before launching the first salvos. As I had hoped, he has basically repeated (in diplomatic form) Cardinal Kasper’s remarks of yesterday. As I had feared, he has made it diplomatically enough as not to cause embarrassment.
5) The thing with the scarf was very nice. He even wore it on the (horrible, almost demeaning) Popemobile. Salmond and a couple of other people wore it too. A nice touch that will, I think, be fondly remembered by the people over there.
6) Participation seems rather good. Police says 100,000 in Edinburgh. I am against overvaluing this element, but one sees that a generalised hostility to the Pope is most certainly not there.


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