This weekend Rowan Williams visits Rome again, this time for the inauguration of the new pope. Earlier reports were incorrect, and he is in fact the second modern archbishop to attend such an event. The first was Donald Coggan in 1978.
Meanwhile, some more commentary on the new pope from British newspapers this week:
In The Times:
Stephen Plant Prophecies and the challenges that follow
…Yet, writing in 1995, that modern-day Cassandra, the liberal historian Felipe Fernández-Armesto, already foresaw Benedict’s election (or that of someone very like him) and with it the challenge he must now take up: “The effect (of Christian fundamentalism) will be mitigated if the Catholic Church — the world’s biggest and most widespread communion — keeps up what may become a unique commitment to moral absolutism in defence of human dignity, individual freedom, social justice and the sanctity of life. Yet the tempters who are always cajoling the Pope to compromise will probably triumph — not when the present pontiff dies, because the long life in office of John Paul II has strengthened the moral fibre of the cardinalate, but in the next pontificate after that.”
The first part of Fernández-Armesto’s prophecy is likely to be unpopular with anyone who cannot tell the difference between intolerance and the steadfast defence of absolute truth, or who are liable to mistake moral and theological precision for the ruthless maintenance of tradition. In this camp is pretty much everyone, Catholic and Protestant, agnostic and atheist, who thinks that the Vatican’s consistent anti-modernism is a terrible hindrance to human progress. But the second part of Fernández-Armesto’s prophecy will upset those who believe that because the Church has resisted modernity in the past it can go on doing so in the future…
Daniel Johnson The best man for the job
As usual, the BBC got the story all wrong. The task for the new Pope is not to take sides between liberals and conservatives. Nor was that the choice the cardinals faced in this extraordinarily rapid conclave. All cardinals are, by definition, conservative.
No, the great issue for Pope Benedict XVI is the one that he set out in his remarkable sermon at the preconclave Mass in St Peter’s. Does he wish to lead the Church down the primrose path of secularism, following the Christian heartlands of Europe in their descent into moral relativism, or does he intend to turn towards the new missionary Church of Latin America, Africa and Asia, to reaffirm the faith of Christ, the faith of St Peter, the faith of John Paul II? That is the real choice.
What the fight against communism was for John Paul II, the fight against rampant secularism will be for Benedict XVI. And all those anti-papist commentators who protested at the attention given to John Paul II’s illness, death and funeral will be gnashing their teeth once battle commences.
…Pope Ratzinger will be even more controversial than his predecessor. He began life under the Weimar Republic, which collapsed because it took moral relativism to extremes and succumbed to the secular ideologies of Left and Right.
…Where I do expect movement during the Ratzinger pontificate is on ecumenical relations with the Orthodox and perhaps also Protestant churches. The last Pope opened up this Pandora’s box, bringing several of the smaller Eastern churches back into the Catholic fold. If the battle against the intolerance of secularism is to be won, Benedict XVI will have to find a way of reaching out to his fellow Christians to make common cause…
…Setting out his vision for his papacy as he celebrated his first Mass as pontiff in the Sistine Chapel, Pope Benedict told the cardinals who elected him on Tuesday that he would reach out to other religions such as Islam — provided that there was “reciprocity” — and continue to implement the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.
In gold and white vestments, seated before Michelangelo’s Last Judgment and speaking in Latin, the man who once dismissed other Christian churches as improper said that his primary task was to work to reunify all Christians and that sentiment alone was not enough.
“Concrete acts that enter souls and move consciences are needed,” he said. He wanted “an open and sincere dialogue” with other religions and would do everything to promote the ecumenical cause, a reference not only to Anglicans but also to Orthodox Christians…
In the Independent:
Catherine Pepinster A German Pope chosen to save Europe