Of babies and beans on toast

LONDON — When the pope travels, the Vatican and the host government and local church prepare an incredibly detailed schedule. It’s as if everything is scripted.

Even if Pope Benedict XVI does not appear to be as spontaneous as Pope John Paul II was, unscripted moments are always part of the program.

Today, the pope had lunch and a rest at the Vatican nunciature in London’s Wimbledon neighborhood. Before the pope left to drive into town to meet the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury, television cameras outside the nunciature showed a woman coming out the front door with a child.

The woman, an Anglican, told reporters she was babysitting her granddaughter and just stopped by the nunciature to see what was going on. The police waved her in and she and the baby met the pope.

There could be serious envy further along the papal motorcade route. Right near Westminster Abbey, where the pope is expected in a few hours, there is a woman holding a colorful sign saying, “We love U papa more than beans on toast.”

(In culinary terms, beans on toast is a VERY popular British comfort food.)

A cheeky suggestion for papal cost-cutting

LONDON — The European budget airline Ryan Air capitalized on Pope Benedict XVI’s arrival in Great Britain to advertise their very low-cost flights in October.

The ad, which appeared in The Guardian this morning, notes that the papal trip was costing British taxpayers and the church an estimated £15 million ($23.5 million). It implies money would have been saved by having the pope fly RyanAir.

Of course, the ad omits the fact that the cost of flying the pope and his top aides to Great Britain is only a tiny fraction of the visit’s cost. The bulk of the cost is due to security measures and logistical arrangements for handling the tens of thousands of people hoping to see the pope.

Pope in Glasgow: Fight ‘dictatorship of relativism’

GLASGOW, Scotland — Here is a main section of Pope Benedict XVI’s homily this evening at Mass in Glasgow’s Bellahouston Park:

I encourage the Catholic professionals, politicians and teachers of Scotland never to lose sight of their calling to use their talents and experience in the service of the faith, engaging contemporary Scottish culture at every level.

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. For this reason I appeal in particular to you, the lay faithful, in accordance with your baptismal calling and mission, not only to be examples of faith in public, but also to put the case for the promotion of faith’s wisdom and vision in the public forum. 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.

Key section of queen’s speech to pope

EDINBURG, Scotland — Here is a key section of Queen Elizabeth II’s speech to Pope Benedict XVI this morning at Holyroodhouse Palace:

Your Holiness, your presence here today reminds us of our common Christian heritage, and of the Christian contribution to the encouragement of world peace, and to the economic and social development of the less prosperous countries of the world. We are all aware of the special contribution of the Roman Catholic Church particularly in its ministry to the poorest and most deprived members of society, its care for the homeless and for the education provided by its extensive network of schools.

Religion has always been a crucial element in national identity and historical self-consciousness. This has made the relationship between the different faiths a fundamental factor in the necessary cooperation within and between nation states. It is, therefore, vital to encourage a greater mutual, and respectful understanding. We know from experience that through committed dialogue, old suspicions can be transcended and a greater mutual trust established.

I know that reconciliation was a central theme in the life of Cardinal John Henry Newman, for whom you will be holding a Mass of Beatification on Sunday. A man who struggled with doubt and uncertainty, his contribution to the understanding of Christianity continues to influence many.

Some quotes from pope’s speech to Queen Elizabeth II

EDINBURGH, Scotland — Here are some highlights from Pope Benedict XVI’s speech this morning to Queen Elizabeth II at Holyroodhouse Palace:

The name of Holyroodhouse, Your Majesty’s official residence in Scotland, recalls the “Holy Cross” and points to the deep Christian roots that are still present in every layer of British life. The monarchs of England and Scotland have been Christians from very early times and include outstanding saints like Edward the Confessor and Margaret of Scotland. As you know, many of them consciously exercised their sovereign duty in the light of the Gospel, and in this way shaped the nation for good at the deepest level. As a result, the Christian message has been an integral part of the language, thought and culture of the peoples of these islands for more than a thousand years. Your forefathers’ respect for truth and justice, for mercy and charity come to you from a faith that remains a mighty force for good in your kingdom, to the great benefit of Christians and non-Christians alike.

And, Pope Benedict said:

Today, the United Kingdom strives to be a modern and multicultural society. In this challenging enterprise, may it always maintain its respect for those traditional values and cultural expressions that more aggressive forms of secularism no longer value or even tolerate. Let it not obscure the Christian foundation that underpins its freedoms; and may that patrimony, which has always served the nation well, constantly inform the example your Government and people set before the two billion members of the Commonwealth and the great family of English-speaking nations throughout the world.

The pope’s remarks enroute to Scotland

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT TO SCOTLAND — Flying to Great Britain this morning, Pope Benedict XVI told reporters on his plane that the church was not vigilant enough or fast enough in responding to the problem of clerical sex abuse.

“These revelations were for me a shock, and a great sadness. It is difficult to understand how this perversion of the priestly ministry was possible,” he said.

Asked about sex abuse cases that have come to light in Europe and elsewhere in recent years, the pope said it was inexplicable to him how a priest who has promised at his ordination to act in the person of Christ, as a good shepherd, could “fall into this perversion.”

“It is a great sadness. It is a sadness, also, that the authority of the church was not vigilant enough, was not sufficiently fast and decisive in taking the necessary measures,” he said.

The 83-year-old pope, responding to questions the journalists submitted in advance, also said he looked forward to a fair hearing in Britain, saying the country had a long tradition of tolerance along with historical moments of anti-Catholicism.

Asked about criticism of his visit from some quarters in British society, including secular and atheistic voices, he said that he would try to make it clear that the church was not preaching a message about its own power, but about the saving message of the Gospel and the need to help the weak.

On the front lines in fighting poverty, Catholic Charities agencies struggle to meet growing need for services

Growing numbers of people from among the working poor, families and the middle class are turning to Catholic Charities agencies for assistance as the U.S. economy continues to stagnate.

The latest quarterly survey of Catholic Charities agencies, covering the second quarter of 2010 and released today, found that America’s working class continues to become the working poor.

The 41 responding agencies reported that one- and two-income households were increasingly seeking assistance to pay their bills, put food on the table, keep a roof over their heads and keep the lights on.

The pressure to provide services to growing numbers of clients, including homeless people, children and senior citizens, has grown throughout 2010 as the economic crisis continued. The responding agencies reported that they are struggling to meet the growing request for services, especially as additional cuts in government funding are likely.

“Harsh financial outlooks hamper the ability to provide services,” Catholic Charities reported. “With even more state budget cuts looming and individual donations decreasing, agencies find themselves largely treading water, doing whatever is necessary to maintain operations and serve the growing number of people in despair.”

The agencies also found that more people were facing difficulties in finding jobs, especially those providing a livable wage, and getting training to develop job skills. The need for transportation and child care also posed road blocks for people looking for work.

The full survey is available here.