The pope has stepped off the plane and the excitement mounts.  Wow I am all a dizzy….NOT!  He was met by Prince Philip the Queens husband.  How charming of him..    

The players and the demonstrators

 Organizers’ estimate that about 60,000 people had turned out in Edinburgh to see the pope.  Hundreds of school children were invited to join in celebration by celebrating St Ninians day parade.  Well any excuse for a day off.  Apparently the parade was to celebrate the first man to be named a saint in nearly1, 6000 years.  Oh yea.  My Bible says we don’t have to wait 1, 6000 years to be named a saint let alone need the consent of the pope.    

A spot of st Ninian history       

St. Ninian is a shadowy figure in history. He is acknowledged as Scotland’s first saint with the date 397AD celebrated as the beginning of his mission to his people. There is very little that we know about him. No written references to St Ninian from the period he was alive have been found. We can only refer to works written many years after his death. Historians now read these texts carefully trying to separate the truth from tradition and embroidery from fact      

History lesson over:      

Amnesty International yesterday  called on the Vatican to do more to address concerns surrounding child abuse, including doing more to co-operate with criminal investigations, open up records of its internal inquiries to public scrutiny, and to offer an apology and reparations to all survivors of abuse.       

Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK, said: “While the Pope has acknowledged the gravity of the abuse, more needs to be done to offer redress to the victims and prevent these abuses from reoccurring.”      

Ian Paisley has planned a protest against the popes UK visit.  A Free Presbyterian delegation of around 60 will travel to Scotland this week to protest at the four-day trip by Pope Benedict.  I suspect whatever protests Paisley and party have in mind, It is unlikely to get anywhere near the pope.  Let alone hitch a ride on the new popemobile.  With all its armor plating, bullet proof, bomb prove protection and the internal oxygen supply  in case of a biological gas attack.  Never mind the poor folk looking on so long as the pope is safe in his goldfish bowl.

East Londonderry SDLP MLA John Dallat said the protest led by the former leader of the DUP (Ian Paisley) and founder of the Free Presbyterian Church is “childish”, adding that it will cause “confusion” for supporters of the peace process.         

Mr Paisley, however, says the protest will be peaceful and will involve unfurling a banner and having a public meeting outside.  (where outside I am not sure)      

“What we’re doing, we’re making a legitimate protest about something that is entirely wrong and I am looking at myself as a person who is prepared to champion those who have been very, very badly treated by these priests of Rome.” he told the BBC.       

Mr Paisley said the visit comes at a time when the Pope’s church is “very deeply divided because of the behaviour of many priests within the church and his evident desire not to enter into this matter and deal with it”.       

“I have been visited by many Roman Catholic people who are gravely pained by the actions of Rome in regard to the attacks on young children,” he added.       

“Many of their children have been attacked. I think I have a right, everybody has a right, to make their presence felt on this issue.”       

Mr Dallat called the protest “an embarrassment to Northern Ireland. It is ridiculous. He had convinced a very sizeable number of people including people in the nationalist community that he had changed and that he had a commitment to reconciliation and respect for diversity and difference. Clearly he hasn’t changed one bit,” he said      

As far as many are concerned the visit will be one of those backslapping affairs where everyone is  praised for doing something nice to each other.      

 The visit will also see the typical ecumenical service to praise each other.  However not all is rosy at the cross roads. As this news report has intimated.      

 Please note this will be special invitation-onlyservice.  If you are not invited you do not get in Sorry!!!!  However if you thought there was going to be something of interest on the TV box.  The service will be televised live by the BBC and both Pope Benedict and the Archbishop of Canterbury will give addresses during the service.      

Ooooh I just can’t wait for that moment when they stand up.  The whole country with baited breathe will be turning on their sets to view the proceedings.  Just to hear a couple of old dodgers tell each other how lovely there are.  I must be in a good mood this evening.       

After the service there will be tea and crumpets for the guests, only joking.  They call it a reception.  However it does not say what is entailed in this reception.  Meet the pope time, kiss his ring , or down a few kegs by nine.        

The report goes on to say:      

The head of the Presbyterian Church in Northern Ireland will not meet the Pope during his visit because of troubling issues with the Church, it has been revealed.      

Moderator Dr Norman Hamilton is representing the Church at a service in Westminster Abbey on Friday attended by Pope Benedict XVI, the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams and members of other ecumenical traditions.      

So no after reception from Mr. Hamilton I suppose.   

He has said he had concerns about recent controversies surrounding the Catholic Church.      

“I have absolutely no difficulty in meeting the Pope, what I have backed away from is the symbolism of greeting him when there are such troubling issues with the Church,” he told the BBC.      

The Catholic Church in Ireland has faced fierce criticism for clerical child abuse over several decades at religious institutions.      

Mr Hamilton is minister at Ballysillan church in north Belfast and is known for his cross-community work. He has called for extra effort to create a shared future and more understanding between Catholics and Protestants.      

His area has been ravaged by sectarian murders and pitched battles over loyal order parades but there have been efforts to bring the two communities together spearheaded by local clerics.      

Mr Hamilton has come under fire for attending Friday’s service from members of his own Church and the fundamentalist Free Presbyterian Church, which is organizing Scottish protests.      

The Pope’s four-day stay will see him attend events in Scotland and England.      

The largest organized event is an open-air Mass at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow on the opening day of the Pope’s trip to the UK.      

So while I have no doubt that people will fall over themselves to be pictured as being part of this visit.  I personally like Ian Paisleys idea.  However pressure will be applied behind the scenes to get mr Hamilton to change his mind and meet with the pope.  On this issue we will wait and see.      

The individual in charge of overseeing the Pope’s visit from the British Government’s side, Lord Patten, has criticized the Moderator for his proposed action suggesting that he is living in the 16th and not the 21st century.      

On the other hand we have the reaction of the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster which is quite vocal in their opposition to the Pope’s visit on theological and historical grounds.  A while back they published a pamphlet titled Roman Catholicism Examined in the Light of Scripture.  On their web site they have a statement which begins “The Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster views the state visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United Kingdom with dismay and abhorrence.”       

 (The pamphlet in question looks like an excellent material to read on exposing the Roman Catholic Church.  If you are unable to view it in the origional. I have a copy of the document on my UC Ministries Box top right hand coner)      

 The statement goes on to say:      

“In light of this [the reception by the Queen] his visit can not be construed as simply pastoral. We therefore publicly disassociate ourselves from any welcome given to him and repudiate those protestant churchmen who will welcome the Pope, meet with him or refuse to publicly condemn his teaching or remainind ifferent. By their actions they not only give credence to his spurious claims but are betraying the very creeds they once professed to believe teach and defend. Those historic creeds of the Protestant Churches have recognised that the Pope by his claims has placed himself in the place of Christ and therefore have termed him -‘The antichrist in the Church’ (‘anti’ means in place of).and follows with the statement in the Westminster Confession of Faith, 25.VI, about Christ as the head of the Church.”

Following along with this statement, in a BBC article the Moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church criticises the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland for even attending the service.  The Rev. Ron Johnstone is quoted as saying:      

 I think it is very sad that he [Rev. Hamilton] would go to such a thing. The Pope claims that the Presbyterian Church in Ireland is a false church. He claims that we should recognise him as the head of all Christians. And surely the Westminster Confession that Mr Hamilton signed is totally opposed to the teachings of Rome. Both can’t be right: either Romanism is right or the New Testament is right.
The visit begins a few hours from now with all this pomp and ceremony.  Stay turned to see how it all unfolds.       

 Guests to this ecumenical  satire will be the Archbishop of York, the Most Reverend and Right Honourable Dr John Sentamu and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, together with church leaders from many denominations,.      

The report intimates.      

The Abbey will be full, with a congregation of more than 2000. Attendance is by invitation. The Abbey will ensure that the congregation is as inclusive as possible, by extending invitations via ecumenical groups and Christian denominations across the United Kingdom.      

 What other Christian denominations have been invited still appears to be a guarded secret      

 If anyone finds out who are the other  invites to this service let me know.


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