Upon watching the papal Mass in Glasgow

Yellow umbrellas indicate the locations of priests distributing Communion

For the first time I’ve been able to watch a Mass by the pope while on an international visit. While liturgically the Mass at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow left things to be desired, I tend to consider it a fitting highpoint to a very successful first day. From the audience with Queen Elizabeth II to the homily at Mass, Pope Benedict XVI managed to make an impression of an intelligent and loving shepherd. He does not shun the truth but always accompanies it with love. Love to individual people, strangers and close friends, but certainly also to his flock, the Catholics of Scotland and all over the world.

This papal visit looks to be one covered heavily by means of social media. In a previous post I already shared  a link to the 24/7 live coverage, but the Mass could also be followed via Twitter, or so it seemed by the number of tweets devoted to it. The few cynical and spiteful comments that showed up were successfully drowned out by the sheer joy of faith that many others displayed.

It seems to me that many of the haters are just looking in from the outside, never managing to catch a view of the real deal, but only reflections. I doubt many of them bothered to watch the Mass (with or without an open heart), and if you don’t do that, you’ll never see, let alone understand, the very heart of the Catholic faith. So how can you then pretend to pass judgement on it or its faithful?

The pope is driven through the streets of Glasgow, waving at and blessing many thousands of people along the route. In Edinburgh, the police estimated some 125,000 viewers, contrasting with some 60 protesters. Perspective, right?

Papal Visit to England and Scotland, day one

One of the most important, and certainly most anticipated, international trips by Pope Benedict XVI kicks off today. His state visit to England and Scotland could be marred by protests and antagonism fueled by ignorance, but I personally expect that to be trumped by the words the pope will speak and the witness of the many faithful who will flock to catch a glimpse of him.

What is there to look forward to on this first day?

The Royal Company of Archers marches onto the grounds of Holyroodhouse. They will be part of the welcoming ceremony for the pope.

First there is the welcoming ceremony and the courtesy visit (as it is officially styled) to Queen Elizabeth II at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. At 11:40 (British time) the pope will make his first address during a meeting with state authorities on the grounds of the palace. After lunch, the papal caravan will travel to Glasgow for a Mass at Bellahouston Park, and undoubtedly the pope’s homily there will also deserve much attention. Tonight at 8, the pope will leave Scotland for London.

During his visit, the pope will stay at the Apostolic Nunciature in Wimbledon, London.

What the topics will be during his address and homily is still under wraps, but I think we can expect them to be primarily aimed at the Catholics of Scotland, but also to the people of the UK and to Her Majesty the Queen, of course. This morning’s address will most likely be an introductory talk, and I think Pope Benedict will discuss specific topics during his homily.

It is generally expected that there will also be unscheduled events, one of the most important of which is a meeting between the pope and victims of sexual abuse. He has done that in the United States, Australia and Malta as well, and it is usually not announced and not open to the press because of the private nature of these meetings. The men who met with the pope in Malta were glad with the meeting, so let’s hope the same will be true today.

The relationship between the Church and the Anglican Communion will no doubt also come up, but not today, I expect.

Whatever today will bring, it will be important and interesting, not just for Catholics in the United Kingdom, but for everyone who, for one reason or another, has an interest in the words and actions of the Holy Father.

Follow all the events of the visit via the official live stream.