The Pope’s London Visit
I work next to Westminster Abbey so I’m well used to staring at visiting dignitaries who are attending memorial services through the windows and from the balcony of our office. Yet the London visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the Abbey today was unlike anything I’ve seen before. The preparations started on Monday when the crowd barriers were put in place along a stretch of road, only for the workmen to realise that they were all facing the wrong way and had to be turned around, much to my amusement! On this day I also saw an old woman decked out in a pope photo t-shirt, carrying a pope photo bag to match. God knows where she was going [bad pun, I know].
There was also a large double-tiered gantry built for photographers and TV crews opposite the Abbey and a makeshift TV studio built on the roof of the enormous Methodist hall. All of this for the head of an organisation that has caused scandal with the cover up of child abuse, comparing atheism with Nazism (well, Ben should know about that!) and has bigoted views on women priests and queers [irony intended – get off your high horse]. Seems like a lot of fuss to me. I wouldn’t mind so much, but God has been a little quiet in recent times, hasn’t he? A burning bush or two would liven things up a little and where was the Ark II when Katrina hit? That would boost church attendance numbers. Miracles are so Middle Ages.
From just before lunchtime, the security operation went into overdrive. I went out to get lunch and I was stopped from re-entering work as I ‘didn’t have a letter of permission’! People turned up to reserve spots four hours early and some of them had banners, which proclaimed things such as:
‘No more popery’ (Boo)
‘We are 100% behind you papa’ (Hurrah!)
And my personal favourite:
‘We love you papa, more than beans on toast’ (That much?!)
Hmm… what about cheese on toast then – surely not more than that?! I can just imagine the thought process that went into that genius piece of creativity: “What do I love on a daily basis? Savoury snacks – yummee! Well, I must love papa more than that, so I should declare this fact publicly to impress him and curry [sorry] favour with God almighty” (and Heinz presumably).
As I was worried about being forced to stay at work all weekend, I didn’t hang around to catch a glimpse of the glorified old priest, so I left just after seeing the arrival of bus loads of purple-gowned priests, bishops, rooks, knights or whatever it was that they were, greeted by people in green gowns (what’s with the gowns?). Much as I love working next to Westminster Abbey, it was surreal to makes sales calls with hundreds of people peering into the office. It was even more strange when a colleague brought around fresh popcorn for us to eat as we were looking out at the crowds looking in. Then another colleague asked me to pass the “pope-corn” – Jesus [last pun], that was bad, time to go…