I'm watching the Pope give mass in Glasgow. I must admit, it's quite a moving experience.
Much of the chatter has been negative. The cost to the taxpayer, the media faux pax's of his entourage and of course, the moralistic stand that he himself takes on behalf of his global family on some very controversial issues.
I'm not a Catholic. I never will be. But I respect those who wish to be. Indeed, my sister and also one of my sisters-in-law's family are Catholics. Indeed, a nephew and niece of mine have been Christened in that faith. As a liberal, I'm happy for them to make their decision and to allow them to follow that chosen path.
I went to a Baptist Sunday School and was given my Bible on leaving at the age of 15. I have not yet been Baptised whereas some of my elder brother have been. I may well decide to go through the ritual of Baptism in the future - I may not. That decision is for the future and one I will keep my mind open too.
Above everything, I have always looked to keep an open mind on the issue of faith and to respect the views of others - even when I don't agree with those views. I believe that if everyone respected the right of others to hold their own views, it would be to the benefit of us all.
We should respect those who are in Glasgow right now. We should also respect those of other Christian faiths and also those of other faiths. As I mentioned in an earlier blog entry, we need to respect those of faiths that may appear different from the traditional ones of our own.
We must also repsect those who have no faith.
I keep my faith to myself. I don't believe that I should burden others with my beliefs and I don't believe that others should push their beliefs onto others either.
It's about respect, understanding and tolerance of one another and our views and beliefs.
Pope Benedict XVI
I therefore object to what his Holiness said this morning in Edinburgh when he compared atheists with the Nazis when he spoke of 'atheist extremism'.
I'm sorry, but I can not agree with him. Freedom to worship? Absolutely. But freedom to not worship? Absolutely again. There are plenty of people of faith down the ages who have done evil things. Likewise there have been plenty of people down the ages of no faith who have done good things.
I also can not agree with the Catholic stance against contraception and against the LGBT community.
For these reasons and others, I could never join with some of my kin in taking up this creed. It's not for me. But I will respect those who decide differently to myself.
Who Should Pay?
Should we be paying £12m of tax-payers money to help pay for this trip? Those who vitriolically oppose the choice of those who wish to preach the Catholic faith to do so, are screaming no. Those who do practise and follow the words of the Holy See, will say yes and point to the fact that he is in fact, like Elizabeth II both the Head of State and Head of their respective Churches.
I take a rather more practical view. I have no problem with the Pope coming to the UK. Indeed, it is a moving sight here right now to watch thousands in his company. For these who follow his words, he is central to their world. Who am I to say to them that he shouldn't be here? This is a free country with freedom to worship. But maybe, in the middle of a great economic downturn and in a time of great uncertainty for our nation, it may have been wiser for the Vatican to have paid that extra amount themselves on top of the remaining cost which they are paying anyway.
At a time when the Vatican have struggled with badly misfiring public relations gaffes, but particularly, have been under great scrutiny with the child abuse scandal, maybe here was an opportunity for them to win over sceptical public opinion in the UK by offering to pay for the entirety of the cost of the visit.
Let Me Live
Above all though, let's just live with each other and accept that we shall all be different. Let's make our views clear when we disagree and do our best, through the force of our arguement, to change views and opinions. But when the day draws to a close, whether those views have been changed through argument or not, let's remember that we all decide how we live our lives and should be allowed to do so.
Good luck to his Holiness. I hope he sees the light of the errors of his ways. But in the meantime, good luck to those who wish to celebrate their faith with him over the coming days.