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Decoding the Pope's message

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 17 September 2010

The Pope is delivering a carefully constructed message on his first state visit to the UK, writes Channel 4's chief correspondent Alex Thomson.

It is nap time now and we in the media thank whoever that the 83 year-old pontiff takes a long lunch and nap every day. I am sure this is to allow us in the TV news business to catch up on our edits, tweets and Papal Bloggery. I said Bloggery.
With Benedict you have to listen out carefully, not because that thick German accent is sometimes unclear but because what he says is deliberately scripted for interpretation. Benedict will not sit there on stage in Twickers and say:
"Look guys, after this mess with the paedos we really have to be careful in our teaching and schools as well".

What he will do is say that he wants to thank the good work of all those in our Catholic schools who make such a valuable contribution to learning. But that must be done in a "safe" environment pervaded by "affection and trust".
You get the style. So when it comes to the tricky issues of science and pushing the frontiers of the scientificlly possible hard up against the questions of what is ethically desirable- well here Benedict will only point out that narrow minded science is as bad as narrow minded religion. And that thinking purely scientifically is dangerous. Such scientists "can lead us all astray..."
Expect more along these oblique lines across the afternoon, though my hunch is that at Lambeth Palace and Westminster Hall he will become rather more pointed and a tad less ambiguous in his call for the UK to reach out to its Catholic Christian roots.
Going into the Command and Control Centre of the Church of England, in Lambeth Palace and Westminister Abbey, is certainly some place to do this. And all this at a time when Anglican and Catholic communities are having pointed discussions about Anglicanism's welcoming of women priests and Catholicism's rejection of same and welcoming instead any Anglican priests who cannot handle women priests.
He will, like James T Kirk, be boldly going where no Pope has been before in both the Palace and the Abbey so this afternoon really is of real historic significance - there's no denying that. He will speak in Westminster Hall where they tried the Catholic's Guy Fawkes et al behind the Gunpowder Plot.
Fawkes - canny Yorkshireman to the last, apparently leapt from the gallows to break his own neck, thus avoiding the agony of being drawn and quartered by the Protestant forces of law and order.
How deft will Benedict be in lecturing our latterday -still largely Protestant- parliament. And how many MPs will bother staying in London on a Friday to assess this?

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