Pope preaches to 70,000 faithful in open-air Mass as he likens the rise of atheism in Britain to the Nazis
By Steve Doughty and Daily Mail Reporters
Sept. 17, 2010
* Pope addresses 70,000 Catholics at open-air Mass in Glasgow
* He invokes Nazi Germany in attack on 'atheist extremism'
* Aide axed from trip after ill-judged comments about UK
* Pope: 'I was shocked and saddened by sex abuse scandal'
* Staunch Catholic Susan Boyle sings at Papal Mass
The Pope has condemned 'aggressive secularism' and compared atheism to the forces of Nazism.
Speaking in front of the Queen after his arrival in Britain he made it clear he would not be cowed by a militant secularist lobby determined to undermine his visit.
In the end their threats proved fruitless as tens of thousands lined the streets of Edinburgh in a respectful fashion to cheer the passing Popemobile.
During his time in London today he will make a speech in Parliament but his visit has already left John Bercow red-faced.
Just hours before the Commons Speaker greets Pope Benedict XVI, his wife Sally, a would-be Labour MP, used social networking website Twitter to join anti-Pope attacks which have been led by comedian Stephen Fry.
Speaking to a crowd of 70,000 in Glasgow's Bellahouston Park last night, Benedict XVI argued that the 'evangelisation of culture is all the more important in our times'.
Hours earlier he had launched an extraordinary salvo against 'aggressive secularism' on his arrival in Britain.
The Pope has urged Catholics to speak out in defence of their faith amid a 'dictatorship of relativism' which 'threatens to obscure the unchanging truth about man's nature, his destiny and his ultimate good'. German-born Benedict XVI compared atheism to the forces of Nazism during an address in which he took his critics head on.
Speaking in front of the Queen 90 minutes after touching down in Edinburgh, he signalled his determination not to be silenced by militants who have campaigned against his state visit.
The Pope spoke of Britain's deep Christian roots and later, in an apparent attack on human rights laws, used a sermon to 70,000 Roman Catholics in Glasgow to condemn 'arbitrary freedoms'.
Britain stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God . . . As we reflect on the sobering lessons of atheist extremism, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue leads to a truncated vision of society.
Today, the UK strives to be a modern and multi-cultural society. May it always maintain its respect for those traditional values that more aggressive forms of secularism no longer value or even tolerate.
Despite the threat of protests, tens of thousands lined the streets of Edinburgh to cheer his progress in the Popemobile. Today he is in London to give a high-profile speech to Parliament.
Critics responded to his speeches yesterday by accusing the Roman Catholic Church of hypocrisy and claiming religious belief was itself the greatest cause of tyranny and murder.
Speaking after the Queen had welcomed him to Britain at Holyroodhouse Palace in Edinburgh, the Pope contrasted Christianity and Nazism.
'Even in our own lifetime, we can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live,' the pontiff said.
'I also recall the regime's attitude to Christian pastors and religious who spoke the truth in love, opposed the Nazis and paid for that opposition with their lives.
'As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the 20th century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society.'
The Pope was forced as a 14-year-old to join the Hitler Youth and was conscripted to serve with an anti-aircraft unit defending Munich.
He praised Christianity - including non-Catholic denominations - as the foundation of respect for truth, justice, mercy and charity. They stem, Benedict said, from 'a faith that remains a mighty force for good in your kingdom'.
He cited Protestants such as William Wilberforce and David Livingstone for their campaign against slavery and Florence Nightingale for her work in nursing.
He also spoke of how the Queen's forbears, King Edward the Confessor and St Margaret of Scotland, had been monarchs of great Christian virtue.
The mother of a baby girl kissed by the Pope as he made his way through the crowds at the Mass in Glasgow said she would "never forget" the special moment.
Marzena Tyszczak was in tears after her baby Maria, who celebrates her first birthday on September 28, was passed through the open window of the Popemobile by a security guard at Bellahouston Park.
Ms Tyszczak, accompanied by her mother, also called Maria, and two-year-old son Christopher, said: 'I just cried. I just couldn't believe that this is what I saw. It really happened.'
The 23-year-old, who works as a cleaner, said it felt 'amazing' when the Pope stopped to kiss her daughter on the forehead and that she had not expected such an honour.
She said her young daughter was 'very happy', and she has vowed to tell her all about the special moment when she is old enough to understand.
Ms Tyszczak, who is originally from Poland but now lives in Glasgow, said: 'When I saw the Pope car, the guy just took my daughter and gave her to the Pope. I just cried and cried.
'I will never forget this. Never.'
'Today, the United Kingdom strives to be a modern and multicultural society,' he added. '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.'
In a further attack on secularism at the mass in Bellahouston Park, Benedict turned on 'some who now seek to exclude religious belief from public discourse, to privatise 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.'
Benedict also spoke of 'a jungle of self- destructive and arbitrary freedoms' - apparently a reference to the sometimes conflicting rules set down in European human rights law.
Addressing young people, he said: 'There are many temptations before you every day - drugs, money, sex, pornography, alcohol - which the world tells you bring you happiness, yet these things are destructive and divisive.'
Protests were few and far between. In Edinburgh one group of 100 booed the Popemobile and waved signs with the slogans 'condoms save lives' and 'Papal bull'. A dozen demonstrators from a Baptist church took a more traditional anti-Catholic line with posters saying 'God save Scotland from popery' and 'Exalt Christ not the Pope'.
Fantasy writer Terry Pratchett, a prominent critic of the Pope, told the Mail: 'I know plenty of OK Catholics, but they tend to be very embarrassed these days.
'Dragging up the Nazis for a soundbite doesn't help anybody. The English don't like being hectored. We don't like being bullied. We don't like being compared to the Nazis.'
Etiquette: Benedict XVI replaces his zucchetto after listening to the national anthems with the Queen
Philosopher AC Grayling, an outspoken atheist, said: 'The suggestion that Hitler and Stalin were atheist extremists is a terrible canard.
'Hitler was born a Catholic and sent his Wehrmacht into battle with Gott Mit Uns [God with us] stamped on their buckles. It is characteristic of people of religious persuasion to use phrases like atheist extremist.
'But we are speaking frankly, which is not quite the same as tying someone to a stake and burning them.
'This is not a trivial point - everywhere in the world where religion has the final say it reverts to all the old practices.'
Gay campaigner Peter Tatchell said: 'It is a bit much for the Pope to condemn secularists for religious intolerance.
'Unlike the Pope we don't support discrimination against women and gay people. 'You do not need religion-to be a good human being and to show compassion for others.'
Benedict stayed last night in the residence of the papal ambassador in Wimbledon in advance of a long programme today. It begins with a private mass at 8am after which the Pope will meet thousands of schoolchildren in Twickenham.
This afternoon he meets the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace.
And at 5.15pm he will deliver the major speech of his visit before 1,800 politicians and dignitaries in Westminster Hall.
Last night he addressed the crowd from almost exactly the same spot in Bellahouston Park as Pope John Paul II in 1982 - albeit to a much smaller crowd of 70,000, compared to 250,000 then.
The 1982 gathering was the largest crowd in Scottish history.
Earlier he apologised for the Catholic Church's handling of the child abuse scandal.
The 83-year-old Pope admitted on the flight to Scotland that the church had not dealt with abusive priests decisively or quickly enough.
The comments are his most thorough admission to date of failings in the way the sex abuse scandal was handled.
The row has gathered pace with revelations in Belgium of hundreds of new victims, at least 13 of whom committed suicide.
Yesterday the Pope said abusive priests must never have access to children, saying they suffered from an illness that mere 'goodwill' could not cure.
He said it was now his top priority to help victims heal and regain their trust in the church.
His comments appeared to be a clear attempt to divert attention from insensitive comments by one of his aides who sparked fury on the eve of his trip, the first British visit by a Pope in 28 years.
Cardinal Walter Kasper was dropped from his entourage after accusing Britain of harbouring aggressive atheism and discriminating against Christians.
The 77-year-old Cardinal had told a German magazine: 'When you land at Heathrow you think at times you have landed in a Third World country.'
The Pontiff touched down at Edinburgh International Airport from Rome on board an Al Italia flight - called Shepherd 1 - shortly after 10am yesterday
As the jet taxied down the runway at the start of his four-day trip, Union and Vatican flags were flown from the windows. Unusually, the Duke of Edinburgh was on the runway to welcome the aircraft.
The Pope, who is being given the full honours due to a world leader on what is the first Papal visit to Britain for 28 years, then travelled to Holyroodhouse Palace to meet the Queen.
His motorcade, surrounded by outriders, made its way through the packed streets of Edinburgh and on arrival he and the monarch stood side by side to listen to the national anthems.
Inside the lavish building, they exchanged gifts and held private talks before the Queen and Benedict gave short addresses.
The papal reference to Nazi Germany was a brave one - given the mixed record of the Roman Catholic Church during the darkest years of the 20th century.
As Benedict stated, Christians who defied Hitler were put to death and it is not surprising that some Catholics sided with a dictator who was born into their faith.
But at least two bishops spoke out against him and appealed for foreign help to stop the murder of Jews and others. The most famous Christian killed by the Nazis was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Protestant pastor executed in April 1945 for plotting against Hitler.
The greatest cloud over the reputation of the Catholic church remains the behaviour of Pius Xll, pope from 1939 until 1958.
He is charged with adopting a neutral stance in the Second World War and failing to listen to pleas to speak on behalf of Jews.
The current Pope Benedict was conscripted into the Hitler Youth when he turned 14 in 1941, as was required by German law at the time. But he was an unenthusiastic member and his father clearly opposed the regime.
The wife of the Speaker of the House of Commons yesterday joined the chorus of secularist attacks on the Pope as her husband prepared to welcome him to Parliament.
Sally Bercow, the Labour-supporting wife of John Bercow, made the comments on the Twitter website as she solicited donations for a 10,000ft parachute jump for a gay, lesbian and bi-sexual charity.
As Left-wing and atheist opponents of the Pope renewed their attacks over the state visit - and the BBC was criticised for its coverage - Mrs Bercow wrote: 'The Pope has landed. Mark the occasion by sponsoring my parachute jump for Stonewall UK and gay rights.'
In a later tweet she joked: 'No I'm not going to land on the Pope'.
Mr Bercow is today due to give a speech praising the Pope in front of hundreds of guests including MPs and former prime ministers John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown at Westminster Hall
One leading Catholic MP, who did not want to be named, said: 'These comments are disappointing and offensive given the important constitutional role the Speaker has at this historic state visit.'
Tory MP Nadine Dorries said Mrs Bercow just 'didn't get it' and was ' letting us all down'.
A spokesman for Mr Bercow said the Speaker - who previously represented the Tories in the Commons - had no comment to make.
Meanwhile a source close to Cardinal Keith O'Brien, head of the Catholic church in Scotland, spoke of his anger that 'elements in the BBC have clearly and demonstrably declared war against the Papal visit'.
Stephen Fry, along with many of the other celebrities who have criticised the Pope's visit, has a book to promote.
The quizmaster and author is holding signings of The Fry Chronicles in Norwich, Cambridge and Oxford this week, backed by a high-profile advertising campaign by his publisher.
It has spent tens of thousands of pounds on promoting him with advertising in every national newspaper.
His attacks on the Pope's visit have placed him at the centre of a storm of publicity.
His book signings are major productions with ticket prices to match. They are billed as 'An intimate evening with Stephen Fry'.
The promotional material adds: 'To mark the publication of his hugely anticipated second volume of memoirs [he] will give audiences an exclusive preview of his revealing, charming and extraordinary new book.' Stephen Fry advert
Fry's readings on September 20 and 21 at the Royal Albert Hall are sold out, with ticket prices ranging between £30 and £55, excluding booking fees.
The reading today in Cambridge costs £20.50.
Another man with a book to sell is Richard Dawkins, who has called for the arrest of the Pope, and is touring the U.S. to promote The Greatest Show On Earth, a book on the evidence for evolution.
And another critic, Geoffrey Robertson, QC, launched his paperback The Case of The Pope: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuse earlier this month. We failed to protect you, he tells victims of child abuse
Victims of clerical child abuse were sent a strongly-worded message of regret by the Pope on his arrival in Britain.
Benedict XVI said the Roman Catholic Church was 'in a moment of penance' and 'our first thoughts must be with the victims'.
Acknowledging his church's failure to safeguard children - and its repeated protection of paedophile priests - he said: 'This sadness is also due to the fact that the Church was not vigilant enough and not sufficiently fast and decisive to take the necessary measures.'
The issue has caused the Vatican deep difficulties in recent months, with critics and pressure groups rounding on it.
Sex abuse allegations dating back half a century, and involving 3,000 priests, have been laid at the church's door.
Most damagingly for the Pope, he is said to have delayed action against a guilty cleric in the U.S.
Benedict told journalists aboard his plane: 'Above all I must say these revelations for me have been a great shock and sadness'.
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