Tuesday, January 05, 2010

For UK, B16 on Sept16

As the wider Anglophone stage goes, one of the year's major events will be Pope Benedict's all-but-formally-announced fall trip to the UK... and now, by the looks of it, we've got the dates: 16-19 September, according to the lead piece in the current edition of The Tablet.

While the British weekly noted that the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman is now expected to take place at Coventry Airport on the outskirts of Birmingham, and the itinerary would include a day in Scotland (likely to enable a meeting with Queen Elizabeth II, who'll still be summering at her Balmoral retreat), the National Catholic Register's Edward Pentin reported from Rome last month that the pontiff would additionally continue one of his favored road-trip engagements: a lecture to the academic world, this time at Oxford, with an added address to politicians and diplomats at Westminster Hall, site of the trial of St Thomas More.

That said, given the recent clamor just across the Irish Sea following the Murphy Report's cataclysmic fallout across Ireland, an improbable but important wild card presents itself: with calls increasing from clergy-abuse survivors and their advocates for a papal visit of repentance there, the first UK PopeTrip since 1982 would provide the opening for a previously-unforeseen Irish stop, but one that could be deemed necessary amid the exceptional circumstances.

To be clear: with the pontiff more likely eyeing a trip to Dublin when it hosts the 2012 International Eucharistic Congress, there's no indication at present that B16 will accept the calls for an Irish add-on to the UK trip. It could well be argued, though, that its absence threatens to fan perceptions of Rome keeping an arm's-length response to the outraged reaction on the Isle -- an appearance the church's already-damaged public standing there can ill afford. (On a related note, it's emerged that the Pope's promised pastoral letter for Ireland could be released before Lent.)

In the meanwhile, there is a pre-game show that bears watching: the Tablet piece relayed that the bishops of England and Wales are to make their ad limina visit to Rome later this month, with the Scottish bench to follow in February.

As the dates for the US' (and, for that matter, the Australian bench's) next summons "to the threshold" of the apostles -- and the papal apartment -- remain up in the air (now being buzzed, apparently, for 2011), it's worth noting that both British conferences last made their Roman trips in 2003: the Scots in March, and the English in October.

PHOTO: Reuters