London, England – Pope Benedict XVI’s appeal to Britons not to forget their Christian heritage was a “mission improbable”, a British daily commented as others highlighted the predator priest scandal rocking the Catholic Church.
“Can the pope escape the abuse scandal?” asked Britain’s Independent newspaper today, after the first day of Benedict’s historic state visit was overshadowed by his strong remarks on the affair.
As he flew into Scotland yesterday for the four-day trip, Benedict tackled the issue head on telling reporters that “the authorities in the Church have not been vigilant enough” in dealing with the problem.
But he then sought to shift attention from the controversy, urging Britain to maintain its respect for religious traditions and warned against “aggressive forms of secularism”.
The 83-year-old pope’s efforts to remind people of Britain’s Christian foundation had now become a “mission improbable”, the Independent argued.
“Pope Benedict XVI began a historic state visit by calling on the British people to embrace a more spiritual way of life,” said the paper.
“But with the scandal of child abuse overshadowing his every move, is his message doomed to fall on stony ground?”
Despite the day being one of celebration, “the horror of the child sex abuse scandals” was never far away, noted the Guardian.
The Times also focused on the issue: “The Catholic Church’s shame isn’t that it was infected by a widespread social evil, but that it conspired to suppress the fact.”
Some papers were more upbeat, however, focusing on the festive atmosphere as the pope made his way past tens of thousands of well-wishers in the streets of Edinburgh.
“Not even the Scottish weather could put a dampener on this celebration,” said the Telegraph, pointing out that “miraculously, the sun shone”.
The Daily Mail added: “Fears of a lukewarm – or hostile – reception in the streets of Edinburgh proved unfounded.
“Respectable, sincere crowds, several deep, lined city centre streets cheering the passing popemobile.”
Britain’s biggest-selling daily The Sun was more interested in what the pope was drinking when he met Queen Elizabeth II in Edinburgh – revealing that the head of the Roman Catholic Church raised eyebrows by sipping on an orange soft drink.
“The Pope celebrated his historic first visit to Britain yesterday... by having a Fanta Orange drink with The Queen,” it said.
The paper added that the queen opted for “a more sedate” traditional cup of tea.