Tartan scarf capped Pope’s Scottish visit

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IN AN age of dwindling congregations and apathy for the tenets of faith, the state visit to Britain by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010 proved a joyous celebration, which will live long in the memory of those Scots who witnessed it.

The four-day trip began north of the Border on the morning of 16 September, when his plane touched down in Edinburgh.

He was greeted by the Duke of Edinburgh and Cardinal Keith O’Brien, before travelling through the streets of the capital – the pavements lined with 125,000 people – bedecked in a tartan scarf, to meet the Queen at the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

The events of that evening, however, superseded the scenes in the capital and the address in Westminster Hall that would follow. In the municipal greenspace of Glasgow’s Bellahouston Park, a crowd of 65,000 had flocked in the autumn sunshine for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear the successor of St Peter offer up a prayer for their homeland.

The rapturous scenes showed flag-waving adults and children cheering as the Popemobile embarked on a quarter-hour tour among the faithful.

Pilgrims who had travelled from far and wide, buoyed by a performance from Susan Boyle, fell silent when the Pontiff came before the open-air cathedral to offer his followers spiritual sustenance.

In the same park, 28 years previously, John Paul II had greeted hundreds of thousands. In 2010, many returned to listen to his successor, and they would not be dis­appointed, for the power of the oratory that followed belied the slight figure on the stage.