Onward Christian soldiers

By Jenny Grainer [email protected]

Jenny Grainer arrived in the Algarve to live, work and raise a family in 1968. She is a freelance writer and her book ‘Portugal and the Algarve Now and Then’ has sold more than 2,000 copies.

I am not a Roman Catholic, however I followed with great interest the visit of Pope Benedict XVI, both on television and in the press.

Before his arrival, many derogatory columns were written and critical words spoken about the man, both as an individual and what he represented, and of course much was made of the huge cost of the trip and where the money could be better spent.

Viewing finally the arrival of the pontiff, I couldn’t help but compare the plainer service that I regularly attend to the pomp and circumstance of the papal robes and

surrounding clutch of colourful attending clerics who fussed around his holy person.

I gazed in awe upon the service held in Hyde Park, which could

only be described as gloriously magnificent.

Soul-searing music and heart-rending voices poured out of cherubic young boys and other soloists, accompanied by harmonic choirs and the best of musicians playing the sweetest of sounds to an enraptured congregation of the faithful.

The Pope sat upon his papal throne accepting all this reverent adulation with a benign and smiling face as if this was an everyday occurrence in Britain and that God had the right to expect the best of all we can give.

The pure joy on the faces of the thousands of people attending the prayer vigil in Hyde Park, waving their candles and singing with gusto, was a phenomenal sight, with many children, teenagers and young adults freely showing their adulation making it

impossible to watch and not be impressed by all the goodwill and love toward fellow man flowing in

all directions.

The Pope’s visits among the crowds, many of whom had travelled great distances to see and experience this unique visit, were moving and indeed touching – his pleasure at being so well received after all the gloomy forecasts was evident as he moved from one reverently outstretched hand to the next.

Many a baby was kissed and held, children blessed while royal waves and smiles from the Popemobile were plentiful with respect and love glowing from all the spectators throughout the visit. No pushing, no shoving just quiet respect and patience all around.

This quiet, unassuming man won the hearts of many sceptics with his pure inner simplicity in spite of – or even because of his bejewelled outer trappings.

The British love a big occasion – the wedding of the Queen, the Coronation and even the funeral of Diana Princess of Wales, all of them religious, usually for the Church of England are moments etched into the memory banks to be savoured and passed on to future generations.

The high vaulted ceilings of the Abbey and the whole splendid and colourful spectacle of the coaches, horses and the spectacular lavishness

of it all is often a much needed boost to many

people’s dull and meaningless lives.

The Pope’s visit was one of those memorable occasions where even our own vastly experienced Monarch seemed to be imbued with enthusiasm for the occasion and all her invitation to visit had evoked.

In my own view, the Pope did an enormous amount of good by visiting the troubled UK and mingling amongst a people still learning how to live in a multicultural society, where its population must be accepting and tolerant of the beliefs of all.

The world is changing in its attitudes and the rights of all people have to be respected, but the message he brought reminded us that this doesn’t mean lying down and allowing the Christian faith to be trampled on. If that is your faith and belief, then why be ashamed of it? Nobody else hides their faith or even lack of it.

The visit came with a call to arms and even though that may not mean ramming your beliefs down people’s throats and becoming fanatical, we need to remind the ‘politically correct’ bunch that it isn’t the believers of other faiths who want to remove Christ from Christmas or prohibit nativity plays in our schools.

The arguments over celibacy, contraception, abortion and paedophilia will continue to rage within the walls of the Vatican City and beyond, but for the moment I am happy to look upon the Pope’s visit as a moment in time to be remembered for the peace and harmony it brought to many people and the reminder that it really is time to stand up with peace and love and be counted.