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Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Catholic Scotland mk ii

Scotia is no Poland, but still: 2500, reportedly, at the Cathedral in Edinburgh on Monday evening. The Mass was not, despite reports, a Requiem Mass, but the Mass of the Annunciation, including some prayers for the repose of the Pope's soul. It was packed, hearteningly - your correspondent was outside, which was fine in terms of hearing and seeing (good job with screens and loudspeakers), but very cold indeed. (As usual the difficulty of bearing a paltry amount of suffering is alas disproportionately great, and emphasises the late Holy Father's recent wonderful witness.)

It was, interestingly, made a very Establishment occasion - Jack McConnell, Alex Salmond, Alastair Darling, Nicola Sturgeon; the deputy Lord Provost (the man himself being in America for Tartan Week - sigh); Rev Finlay MacDonald from the Kirk (the Moderator being in Poland - must be interesting for her), two Piskie bishops and people from other religions too. This reflects two good things, I think - obviously, the immense impact which John Paul II has had upon the world, which cannot be unrecognised by anyone; and also the decline in active anti-Catholicism in Scotland: it is not unacceptable for the establishment to be associated with the Church. On the other hand, I suspect there are two somewhat negative factors at work - firstly, blanket enthusiasm of political figures for publicly paying tribute to famous good people, and for publicly empathising with grief; and secondly the secularisation in Scotland which means that folk just don't bother about Catholicism one way or t'other. Not that the former is bad as such; I don't mean that I think this is an electioneering ploy. However, it seemed to me that the Mass acquired a flavour as much of being a Scottish-establishment-shows-solidarity-with-Catholics evening as of being a great prayer for the Pope's soul (and perhaps consideration of the happy possibility that he's the one who's praying for us now). Hmm, suspect am saying this, however, out of increasing paranoia that the only way in which it is now acceptable for people to relate to each other is by feeling each other's pain, and am not sure this is a good place to start - one cannot rely on either feelings or demonstrations of feelings to make oneself or society act with charity and justice.
Though a complete inability to feel other's pain is a very bad sign too.

Anyway, not the time to rant. It wasn't, as I said, a Requiem; and I suppose that Jack McConnell's wee speech wasn't likely to be variations on the theme of Dona ei requiem, and what he said was generally rather decent (except for the odd line, 'he led the Church with a consistency of purpose, but also with humanity and understanding': why the 'but'?). And just before the final blessing there was read most of the address which the Pope gave to the young people of Scotland in 1982, which was very good. And the choir sang beautifully (one of the hymns being the wonderful Sweet Sacrament Divine). And the atmosphere outside, though chilly in temperature, was very reverent in character. And of course Our Lord was there in the Most Blessed Sacrament!