Patrick Ward writes…
In contrast to the picture painted of Pope Benedict XVI by Peter Tatchell in his Channel Four documentary this evening, I’ve recently been hearing very different impressions from people who have actually met the man.
Earlier this evening, I was at a talk given by the broadcaster Mark Dowd who is producing some very interesting programming for the BBC this week related to the visit (see links below). In his talk, he very eloquently told a story of how, early into his pontificate when on an aeroplane with dozens of international journalists, Pope Benedict stood up, spoke to the group and unequivocally accepted responsibility for the history of abuse within his Church. This was at a time when there was a lot of feet-shuffling and blame-shifting. A humble man, clearly not afraid to shoulder the great weight of responsibility on his shoulders.
Here’s another one. In an interview for The Catholic Herald, Archbishop Nichols provides some interesting insights on the pontiff:
[The Archbishop] contrasted the current Pope and his predecessor, arguing that, while John Paul II was “a great presence on the stage”, Benedict XVI was “a much more gentle and refined person”, who “benefits greatly from the television close-ups because he wants to engage in a dialogue”.
During the ad limina visit of the Bishops of England and Wales to the Vatican, he and his fellow bishops were struck by the fact that “many of the people accompanying the pope seem to smile most of the time”, adding that “it is almost as if a certain peacefulness radiates from him”.
“One of my fellow archbishops said, ‘Here is a man who is at peace with himself, and at peace with his faith, and at peace with his theology’”, the archbishop said. “He’s… quietly, deeply rooted and willing to face any challenge or any problem”.
[Mark Dowd’s radio programme, “The Pope’s British Divisions”, which was broadcast on Radio 4 last week, can still be heard here on BBC iPlayer. His TV documentary, “Benedict: Trials of a Pope” will be shown on BBC 2 on Wednesday at 7pm.]