by Ray Fleming

I n September 2010 I surprised myself by writing here that “The visit of Pope Benedict to Britain has been a triumph”.
Surprised because as a non-believer I have often been critical of the Roman Catholic Church's misuse of its influence in the world and its strong adherence to beliefs and actions that belong to centuries past .

In a Yes/No debate in the Bulletin before the visit the most I could say was that it would give the British people and the Vatican an opportunity to understand each other better.

No one has ever called Pope Benedict charismatic in a media sense. But during his UK visit he seemed to strike a note of openness and enjoyment and at the same time to make interesting and sometimes profound observations about the modern world. In a Looking Around column after his departure I said: “Given the Pope's age and the many other countries that want him to visit them, it is unlikely he will ever return to Britain. He can, however, be content knowing that in a packed four days he made a deep personal impression on British public opinion.

But he left unanswered the question of whether his Church will ever re-interpret some of its rigid social attitudes which often are not even observed among the Catholic faithful.” That question remains to be answered by Benedict's successor.