Pope John Paul flies back to Rome after the six-day celebration of his pastoral visit to Britain's five million Catholics.
Crowds flocked to hear him speak and non-Catholics joined in welcome
by Christopher Howse
THE LAST cheers of an invited crowd died away in to the Welsh air, as Pope John Paul flew back to Rome from Rhoose airport, Cardiff, on Wednesday evening after a sixday tour of Britain that took him to ten cities, where he delivered enough sermons to fill a book to millions who came to see him at open-air sites or watched on the largest outside broadcast television coverage ever mounted.
The Pope left with a final prayer that God may make the people of England, Scotland and Wales instruments of his peace.
Wednesday was the anniversary of the Coronation and the Queen was not forgotten in the Pope's farewell speech. Nor were the police whom he thanked for the public order they had helped to preserve.
He ended as he had begun, by referring to his mission as a pastor: "My pastoral visit to the countries of Britain has now come to an end. I came here as a herald of peace, to proclaim a Gospel of peace and a message of • reconciliation and love. I came also as a servant — the servant of Jesus Christ, my Saviour: and the servant, too, of' the Christian people. As I have travelled round England. Scotland, and finally Wales, in fulfilment of my pastoral duty to confirm my brethren, I have sought to remind Catholics of the whole saving activity of Christ, the Redeemer, our Risen Lord.
"In each of the countries I have also been able to meet and to pray with our brethren from other Christian communities. For these wonderful opportunities and for the friendship and brotherly welcome I have received everywhere. I give praise to God and I thank you It was a visit of superlatives. The voices of a few hundred militant Protestants were scarcely heard above the enthusiastic. sometimes wild, greetings from Catholics and non Catholics.
Britain now knows what a pastoral visit meat s. l'he coming of the Pope w the onlv event that could compete for the headlines \vith the Falklands conflict, but, though the Pope made it quite clear that war was incompatible with Christianity, he never descended into the arena of political wrangling. He is due in Buenos Aires in a week's time.
If for the hundreds of thousands who travelled about the country to catch even a fleeting glimpse of the Pope the visit was exhausting, the Pope showed no more weariness after days of public appearances, from before eight in the morning till after nine at night, than he betrayed on his first appearance at Westminster Cathedral last Friday when he looked pale and older than many expected.
The Pope demonstrated again and again his ability to summon reserves of energy to cope with new audiences. He homed in on individuals, from the first moment he stepped off the red carpet at Gatwick to talk to the crowds, to the evident disquiet of Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, his burly andintrusive security chief. Eventually even he was won.-over and went as far as picking up little children from the crowd in the streets of Liverpool for the Pope to kiss.
The theme of' the visit — the seven sacraments — adapted itself to • almost anything the Pope wanted to say. There was more surprise at what he did not say — there was no lengthy condemmition of contraception and divorce, rather an acceptance that these matters were in practice difficult for some Catholics and encouragement for them to try again with faith in the Holy Spirit.
The Pope himself administered five sacraments: Baptism at Westminster Cathedral and the Sacrament of the Sick at Southwark Cathedral on Friday. Confirmation at Coventry on Sunday. Holy Orders at Manchester on Monday, and the Eucharist each day, but particularly at Cardiff on Wednesday.
He did not administer Penance, as it could not be done publich given the prohibition he has repeated of general absolution. Nor was it considered wise to subject a couple to the strain of being married in the Pope's presence before a vast crowd.
The Pope was greeted wherever he went as the successor of Peter, and it was in this role that he made his progress through the territories of his brother bishops of the two hierarchies in Scotland and England and Wales. He had come to confirm their faith.
The centre of the visit was Pentecost Sunday. The Catholics of Britain gathered together looked forward to their confirmation by the Spirit in unity with their supreme Pastor.