According to the press, pilgrims attending events during Pope Benedict XVI’s Sept. 16-19 papal journey to Scotland and England will not be able to have any fun. The headlines say it all: “Pope bans booze, vuvuzelas from U.K. visit” (Huffington Post, Aug. 24); “Catholic Church bans barbecues but approves flags for pope’s visit” (Daily Telegraph, Aug. 23).
These headlines and their accompanying stories are based on a list of dos and don’ts released by the Catholic Church in England and Scotland to prepare visitors for Mass at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow, Scotland, a vigil service in London’s Hyde Park and Cardinal John Henry Newman’s beatification Mass in Cofton Park in Birmingham. Among the items allowed are banners and flags; cameras; blankets; and folding chairs. Items that pilgrims should leave at home include alcohol; canopies; barbecues; pets; musical instruments; glass bottles and open flames. (Note that nowhere on the list did it say that the Vatican specifically decreed that vuvuzelas, the instruments popularized during the World Cup in South Africa earlier this summer, were verboten.)
Despite media claims of “Draconian” rules, nothing in this list seems out of line with other large events that draw huge crowds, such as musical concerts or sporting events. With as many as 80,000 pilgrims expected to attend the Hyde Park service, safety is of paramount concern.
After all, the pope will be leading people in prayer, not in partying.