Preserve Christian tradition, pope urges in Great Britain

EDINBURGH, Scotland (CNS) — Arriving in Scotland on the first leg of a four-day visit to Great Britain, Pope Benedict XVI appealed for preservation of the country’s long Christian tradition and warned against “aggressive” forms of secularism and atheism.

“Your forefathers’ respect for truth and justice, for mercy and charity come to you from a faith that remains a mighty force for good in your kingdom, to the great benefit of Christians and non-Christians alike,” the pope said Sept. 16 at a reception with Queen Elizabeth II and more than 400 distinguished guests at Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, the Scottish capital.

The pope evoked the moral heroism of a long line of British figures, from Florence Nightingale to Cardinal John Henry Newman, whom the pope was to beatify during the visit.

Christian witness was also evident during World War II against a “Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society,” he said. “As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the 20th century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society,” he said.

In an unusual courtesy gesture, the queen sent her husband, Prince Philip, to greet the pope when he arrived at the Edinburgh airport after a two-hour flight from Rome. The pope looked eager to begin his busy program in Britain, and on the plane he told reporters he felt confident the country would give him a respectful reception — despite differences with some critics of religion.

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