Editor's comment

17th September 2010 at 01:00

We have had less contentious guests. The anticipation of the Pope's arrival in Edinburgh yesterday for his UK visit was marked by a lot of noise: chanting protestors and cheering pilgrims. Ian Paisley was due to heckle and Susan Boyle to sing. Despite the din, polls suggested that three-quarters of the population would ignore the visit.

Catholic schools were understandably excited by the prospect of Benedict XVI's appearance. But Catholics as a whole seem anxious (p4-5). Almost 60 per cent of them thought their church wasn't "generally valued" in British society, according to a recent BBC poll. This is despite the large footprint they have in education - 10 per cent of all UK schools are Catholic and, while their overall performance can be exaggerated, they enjoy a good reputation.

When asked, many parents say they prefer Catholic education because they want their children to benefit from a Christian ethos. The Pope believes the whole country could benefit from the same and hoped his visit would kick-start a spiritual revival.

But, according to yet another poll, around three-quarters of people disagree with the Pope's position on homosexuality, women priests, abortion and contraception, while a whopping 83 per cent think the church has been "dishonest" over the abuse of children in its care. Mass conversions seem as likely as a welcome hug from Dr Paisley.

The Vatican is not fazed. "We think in centuries," said one cleric, which no one disputes, though there may be disagreement about which century he was referring to. The church's certainty is not in doubt, but its claim to moral superiority is. Its problem is not really animated atheists like Richard Dawkins but average punters deciding that the "wasteland of secularism" is not as denuded of values as the Pope imagines and can seem far more generous, tolerant and even moral than the church he leads.

Neil Munro, editor of the year (business and professional magazine).

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