NO ONE shot the Pope while he was in Britain. That is obvious, and the superstitious might find it distasteful to mention, but it was the preoccupation of hundreds of policemen and planners during his visit here.
It is vvorth mentioning as a positive outcome. if, after weeks of prayer that the Pope would come, he had been attacked on British soil, it would have been a more severe test of faith than the shooting of a year ago.
There were other misgivings, at the same time, about his pastoral tour.
Some dislike his clear pronouncements on contraception. divorce and moral responsibility.
They-may .b-e glad-that bedid not rant about sex. But then he never does rant (indeed, his English diction is much improved and combines quite pleasingly with his natural oratorical talents).
He does have a habit of putting things very simply and with a voice of authority, (go to Mass every Sunday. he told the crowds at Wembley). Yet. when he spoke on marriage at York, he merely catalogued the forces that destroy marriage, preferring to concentrate on an exposition of Christian marriage as a vocation to holiness.
Four clear concerns of the visit were with peace, the Holy Spirit. unity and the obligations of a pastor. There have been many attempts at a definition of pastoral since the pastoral visit. was announced the year before last.
Cardinal Hume said on the eve of the visit: "If asked what is the scope and purpose of a pastoral visit. I would reply that it should inspire us ultimately to pray more devoutly and frequently to believe more accurately and firmly, and to serve others more generously and effectively.
"It should emphasise that we must live more genuinely Christian lives of prayer, faith and action. It should stress the need for union with God and for a commitment to do His will.
"Yet, at the same time, it reminds us that we have to build in love a better world for the human family, to be witnesses to Christ at the very heart of the community of mankind."
On the first day of his visit,
Pope John Paul. in his homily in Westminster Cathedral, took up Christ's injunction to Peter to feed his sheep and explained: "l come among you in response to this command of the Lord. I come to confirm the faith of my brother bishops. I come to remind all believers who today inherit the faith of their fathers that in each diocese the Bishop is the visible sign and source of the Church's unity.
"I come among you as the visible sign and source of unity for the whole church. I come at the service of unity in love — in the humble and realistic love of the repentant fisherman: 'Lord, you know everything: you know _ that rfove you As a pastor, the Pope values primarily his identity as a priest, and a clue to the ideal he is aiming at is given by the life of the Blessed Maximilian Kolbe. to whose Memory he lit a candle in Canterbury Cathedral. He might not have been so Willing to light a candle to some of the other modern martyrs chosen there.
Maximilian Kolbe. it is well known, gave up his life for a family man in Auschwitz and ended up starved to death with a dozen others in a dark bunker. More important than the accepting of another's death sentence was his desire to be with his flock to the last. The Pope must feel that he has been allowed to behave in a similar way by falling to a gunman's bullet while tending his people in Rome.
The shooting a year ago reveals two aspects of the Pope's thinking that appeared repeatedly during his visit to Britain — his devotion to the Mother of God and his interpretation of suffering through the mystery of the Cross.
When he was being rushed to the operating theatre after the shooting, he said prayers in Polish to Our Lady. On Saturday at Wembley, the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham, the national shrine of England, was brought to him in procession and he kissed it three times. Next week he will pray at the national shrine ol Argentina. or Our Lady of Lujan. which has been a rallying point for young people seeking peace. That will be his prayer, too.
Everywhere he went. the Pope called for peace. This peace, he said at Coventry, is not just an absence of war. It is a gift for which each has to struggle personally.
There was tumultuous applause from 350,000 when he said: "Today, the scale and the horror of modern warfare — whether nuclear or not — makes it totally unacceptable as a means of settling differences between nations."
It was to the Holy Spirit that the Pope looked for the assistance to make peace possible (it is possible. he kept repeating). The Holy Spirit was the only force that could make the demands of _ Christian life practicable.
And the Pope admitted the difficulties that sometimes beset honest Christians. In his homily on marriage he said that Christ's Passion as well as his Resurrection is present in family relations.
He seemed to be saying that the Easter People could become a Pentecost people if they accepted that they were not living up to God's expectations and called on the Spirit to help them.
After so many thousand words from the Pope in Britain, perhaps the last vestiges of the myth of his conservatism will be blown away. In his speech to the bishops of England and Wales, he reiterated the need for practising collegiality. At Westminster, York and Manchester he preached the dignity and vocation of the laity, through Baptism. This was the language of the Second Vatican Council.
It is debatable how much of the sermons the _crowd's will remember. They will remember the man and what he did. The Pope tends to speak through actions, as when he gave his pontifical ring to the poor of Vidigal, the Rio slum.
In Britain we saw him embracing the sick and dying of Southwark. He, too, had suffered pain, he said (the Cross, again). He broke security to speak with the people and hug little children.
The television screen showed him moving from one exhausting event to another. In Scotland he greeted the Moderator of the Church of Scotland warmly, and actually listened to his speech, after a this in which he had said an open air Mass in Manchester. preached in York. joined in a noisy youth rally at Murrayfield and met innumerable dignitories of whom he could never have heard before.
Pope John Paul established a particularly lively rapport with young people. Murrayfield was as _enthusiastic-as it-normally is for a game of Rugby — they even sang football chants.
It IA as a splendid stroke to hold the Cardiff youth event last. The Pope could give all his remaining energy without fear of spoiling the next diplomatic meeting. The young people responded wildly.
The Pope did his best to make
his words fit the British scene. At each venue, he referred to the local heroes — Sir Thomas More, Cardinal Newman, Shakespeare, Margaret Clitheroe, Bede — and so it went on. At Canterbury he was given a copy of Murder in the Cathedral. T. S. Eliot's widow was in the congregation.
At Canterbury, too. he told the British Council of Churches delegation: "The Pope longs for the day when in fulfilment of Christ's will we shall all be one — one with him and one with one another." The whole service at Canterbury was intensely moving. The welcome at Liverpool Anglican Cathedral was astonishing.---
The Pope's appeal for unity was based on the ancient common traditions of Christians. Unity with other Christians could only follow from unity within the Church. That meant unity with the successor of Peter.