I got up at 3:30 am to see the Pope's arrival in Scotland. I quickly got frustrated with the EWTN coverage. (Raymond Arroyo talking about Elizabeth I and the Scottish Reformation occurring 600 years ago. Ray. Baby. "Good Queen Bess" died just over 400 years ago and the Scots are celebrating the 450th anniversary of their Reformation this year. Try again.)
It was a real relief to listen to the cheery, professional commentary of the BBC's Scottish talking heads, who were well informed, remarkably positive, and sounded genuinely surprised and pleased with the Pope, regularly using language like "warm" to describe his interactions with the Queen. Besides, listening to their accents (Scottish and Welsh) was such fun. And may I say that listening to their accents goes very well with a big, strong mug of Yorkshire Gold tea.
It was lovely to see Edinburgh again. Prince's Street, the National Gallery of Art, and of course, Edinburgh Castle with its 11th century chapel. My sister and I visited as part of a victory celebration when I finished grad school. It was May and like today, reasonably good weather - but c-o-l-d! O-o-o-o-o . . . how that wind whips down the Royal Mile.
It was touching to watch an English Queen named Elizabeth stand side by side with the Pope at Holyrood Palace where long ago, a a pregnant Catholic Queen named Mary watched her secretary be stabbed to death by her husband's agents. It was fun to contemplate John Knox - whose home was only a couple blocks away and whose stern visage is still visible about the city - rolling in his grave and thundering in his righteous rage, for he was not the sort of man who let worldly things like a sense of occasion silence him.
For four centuries, a stern and very anti-Catholic Reformation identity dominated Scotland, and suddenly, within two generations, it has vanished. The historic enemies have rapidly become co-belligerents in many areas including defending the value of religion against an aggressive anti-religious secularism as Pope Benedict's speech made clear.
Those who came seemed very happy to be there. The crowds were, I understand, considerably smaller than when Pope John Paul II came in 1982. (Update: I see that the BBC has estimated that 125,000 gathered to see the Pope in Edinburgh. That's respectable in a country that only has 700,000 Catholics. Approximately 250,000 came to see John Paul II. ) That would be just after JPII had survived an assassination attempt the year before, so security was considerably bulked up, I'm sure. But I would guess the security for this papal journey is even tighter.
One of the fun things about this work are the amazing people you get to meet. I once interviewed a man who had been part of both Presidential and papal security details.
I love it. There is a sharp 106 year old Scottish women attending the papal Mass in Glasgow. She was glowing in her beautiful maroon hat and scarf as she spoke of what it meant to her.
They estimate the crowd at the Glasgow Mass to be about 70,000. It certainly looked impressive in the wide angle shots. About 300,000 attended Mass at the same venue with Pope John Paul II in 1982. Where would they have put them?