I went to Hyde Park for the Papal Vigil last night, a beautiful, moving ceremony even for a non-Catholic like myself and marred only slightly by the enormous Irish family behind us who insisted on talking during the homily and the others who chose to leave early during the recessional.
I guess some people only go to church to tick it off, to tot up God points in the hope of gaining access to heaven. Showing respect for what is being enacted or for those around them is not considered. "Ah, we've seen the Pope now, why do we need to listen to him?"
My objection to Catholicism - indeed to much of religion - is that too many worshippers don't think about why they are there or consider the messages that are being passed on. There is beauty - although even that seems wasted on some - but too rarely brains.
Oh well, each to his own. I attended with my family (mother and sister are Catholic) out of respect for the Pope as a world leader, a religious leader and an historical figure worth listening to. I'm not sure how many Catholics would extend the same respect to the Queen or the Archbishop of Canterbury, but hypocrisy has always walked hand in hand with religion.
What I found particularly heartening at Hyde Park, though, was how lax the security was. Although strictly told to bring photo ID, we were waved through without needing to produce it. The only ticket was a hand-written name on a piece of paper that was barely examined and the stewards who checked our bags did so swiftly and not too thoroughly.
This is a GOOD thing. Not only did it mean that there were not enormous queues to get in, but it showed respect for the pilgrims and faith that they were there with good intentions. I see so often, particularly at sports events, stewards getting needlessly invasive with their body checks, treating the paying public all as would-be criminals.
They say that it is for our own protection, but I would rather leave it to the security services than grunts in yellow jackets. People generally are harmless and if evil men wish to attack us, they will find a way to do so.
Of course, we hardly fitted the profile of a would-be terrorist anyway, but that has not stopped stewards at sports grounds poking through bags as if everyone were trying to smuggle in Semtex with their smoked salmon.
One of the most dispiriting scenes I ever witnessed was at the Oval a few years ago where three stewards were gathering around an elderly man, trying to sniff a bottle of pop that had been in his bag to see if he had laced it with alcohol. Even if he had, he was hardly a trouble-maker.
It suggested that the Oval had no respect for its public. At least the Catholic church trusts people to behave. If only all people returned that faith.