âPope Benedict XVI came, saw and conquered,â Cardinal Keith P. OâBrien of St. Andrews and Edinburgh said on the first anniversary of the papal visit to the U.K.
âThat call must echo in our own minds as we go forward evermore confidently living the Christian message in our country and endeavoring to hand on the love of Jesus Christ as effectively as we can to the other peoples in Scotland, and indeed throughout the world,â Cardinal OâBrien told CNA on Sept. 16.
Despite prior predictions of doom and disinterest, Pope Benedictâs visit to Scotland and England is now widely accepted as one of the high points of his six-year pontificate.
It began in Edinburgh, Scotland where he was cheered through the capitalâs historic streets by a crowd of 125,000 and concluded four days later in Birmingham, England with the beatification of the 19th century Anglican convert Cardinal John Henry Newman.
Cardinal OâBrien said his own happiest memories stemmed from the first day of the visit when he accompanied Pope Benedict to his meeting with Queen Elizabeth at Holyroodhouse.
âIt was with pride that we witnessed Her Majesty the Queen and His Holiness the Pope speaking in the most friendliest of terms of their respective views of our country and the necessary place of religious in our society,â he said.
Cardinal OâBrien also spoke with great pride of being able to escort Pope Benedict through the streets of the Scottish capital on Sept. 16 last year, the feast day of St. Ninian â who is Scotlandâs first saint.
âIt was a privilege for me being with Our Holy Father on that popemobile along the great length of Princes Street,â said Cardinal OâBrien.
He recalled how they were âled by that magnificent pageant of the history of Scotland, the children from all of the St. Ninianâs schools in Scotland, listening to pipe bands from all over our country, and with the Pope so graciously wearing the St. Ninianâs Day tartan scarf which I had placed around his neck in the popemobile.â
In fact, it was later revealed that Cardinal OâBrien smuggled the papal scarf into the royal reception, tucking it inside his cassock.
In the intervening days, the people of the United Kingdom watched and listened as, among other events, Pope Benedict addressed civil society in Westminster Hall â the scene of St. Thomas Moreâs trial in 1535 â on the relationship of faith and reason. The Pope also met with young people at St. Maryâs College in London, challenging them to become the âsaints of the 21st century.â
Cardinal OâBrien says that, one year later, the Popeâs visit is still paying dividends to the Church in the U.K.
âHe showed us something of the human face, not only of himself as Pope, but of our whole Church itself,â said Cardinal OâBrien. âOf course we must continue to be the better of that visit through an ongoing study of the teachings of our Pope while he was with us.â
And he has no doubt as to what is the message that has had most resonance over the past 12 months.
Proof of that resonance was given by the fact that U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron issued a statement for the anniversary. He stated that the âPope's message is just as relevant todayâ as he highlighted the need for Britons âbuild a new culture of social responsibility and develop strong powerful communities as we deal with tough economic challenges.â
In Cardinal OâBrienâs view, the message of Pope Benedictâs that was most strongly delivered and warmly received was his call to ââbe a saint!ââ