Below is a selection from the official addresses and homilies made by Pope Benedict XVI during his state visit to the United Kingdom last week. They are a strictly personal selection of passages which I think are either important to consider or which reflect the general topic of the various speeches. A full collection is available via the Vatican website. Below are my choices from the first day of the visit, 16 September.

The pope speaks to reporters onboard the plane en route to Scotland

Interview during the flight to the UK

“One might say that a church which seeks above all to be attractive would already be on the wrong path, because the Church does not work for itself, does not work to increase its numbers so as to have more power. The Church is at the service of Another; it does not serve itself, seeking to be a strong body, but it strives to make the Gospel of Jesus Christ accessible, the great truths, the great powers of love and of reconciliation that appeared in this figure and that come always from the presence of Jesus Christ.”

“The priest, at the moment of ordination, a moment for which he prepared for years, says “yes” to Christ, in order to be his mouth, his hand and to serve with all his being so that the Good Shepherd who loves us, who helps and guides us to truth, may be present in the world. How a man who has said and done this can afterwards fall into such perversions [sexual abuse of minors] is difficult to understand. It is a great sadness, a great sadness also that Church leadership was not sufficiently vigilant and sufficiently swift and decisive in taking the necessary measures.”

“Naturally the fact that, from a juridical point of view, this is a State visit, does not make my visit a political reality, because if the Pope is a head of State, this is just an instrument that guarantees the independence of his message and the public character of his work as Pastor. In this sense the State visit is substantially and essentially a pastoral visit, a visit made in responsibility for the faith, for which the Pope exists.”

Queen Elizabeth II and Pope Benedict XVI greet guests in the gardens of the Palace of Holyroodhouse

Audience with Queen Elizabeth II and state reception

“As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the twentieth century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus to a “reductive vision of the person and his destiny” (Caritas in Veritate, 29).”

Homily at Bellahouston Park, Glasgow

“The evangelization of culture is all the more important in our times, when a “dictatorship of relativism” threatens to obscure the unchanging truth about man’s nature, his destiny and his ultimate good. There are some who now seek to exclude religious belief from public discourse, to privatize it or even to paint it as a threat to equality and liberty. Yet religion is in fact a guarantee of authentic liberty and respect, leading us to look upon every person as a brother or sister.”

“Society today needs clear voices which propose our right to live, not in a jungle of self-destructive and arbitrary freedoms, but in a society which works for the true welfare of its citizens and offers them guidance and protection in the face of their weakness and fragility. Do not be afraid to take up this service to your brothers and sisters, and to the future of your beloved nation.”

“Just as the Eucharist makes the Church, so the priesthood is central to the life of the Church.”

“There are many temptations placed before you every day – drugs, money, sex, pornography, alcohol – which the world tells you will bring you happiness, yet these things are destructive and divisive. There is only one thing which lasts: the love of Jesus Christ personally for each one of you. Search for him, know him and love him, and he will set you free from slavery to the glittering but superficial existence frequently proposed by today’s society. Put aside what is worthless and learn of your own dignity as children of God.”

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