After the visit, Edward Pentin wrote in The National Catholic Register about how extraordinary these events and the access the Pope had received were:
A week after Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Scotland and England and its historical significance is still reverberating.
The first state visit by a Pope to Britain was remarkable in many different ways, not least because of the graciousness and generosity shown by Queen Elizabeth II.
Here was a Pope coming to the United Kingdom at the invitation of Her Majesty, the supreme governor of a church that violently split from Rome 500 years ago. Yet she gave him free rein to address her subjects as he saw fit – even beatify one who left her church to come over to Rome.
For the first time, a ruling English monarch allowed the Successor of Peter to address her Parliament, attend a liturgy in the church of her Coronation, and even to pray with her archbishop at the tomb of the Royal Family’s patron saint. Her government also hosted unprecedented formal bilateral talks with Holy See officials. . . .
It was a remarkable turn of events and a highly significant moment in British history. Were they alive today, the Queen’s Tudor predecessors would have been flabbergasted and probably summoned her executioner. More, Fisher and Campion, on the other hand, would be rejoicing.
remarks about St. Thomas More:
This country’s Parliamentary tradition owes much to the national instinct for moderation, to the desire to achieve a genuine balance between the legitimate claims of government and the rights of those subject to it. While decisive steps have been taken at several points in your history to place limits on the exercise of power, the nation’s political institutions have been able to evolve with a remarkable degree of stability. In the process, Britain has emerged as a pluralist democracy which places great value on freedom of speech, freedom of political affiliation and respect for the rule of law, with a strong sense of the individual’s rights and duties, and of the equality of all citizens before the law. While couched in different language, Catholic social teaching has much in common with this approach, in its overriding concern to safeguard the unique dignity of every human person, created in the image and likeness of God, and in its emphasis on the duty of civil authority to foster the common good.
And yet the fundamental questions at stake in Thomas More’s trial continue to present themselves in ever-changing terms as new social conditions emerge. Each generation, as it seeks to advance the common good, must ask anew: what are the requirements that governments may reasonably impose upon citizens, and how far do they extend? By appeal to what authority can moral dilemmas be resolved? These questions take us directly to the ethical foundations of civil discourse. If the moral principles underpinning the democratic process are themselves determined by nothing more solid than social consensus, then the fragility of the process becomes all too evident - herein lies the real challenge for democracy.