The thing about the Pope's visit is that it always had the potential to be like your first weekend back home after starting university, when you bring your cool new friend home to meet your parents. The two of you are sitting on the bus (do students get buses nowadays? Or are they above all that, with their laptops and iPads and crippling debts?), and you're all excited about her meeting your parents and them seeing what awesome, progressive, out-of-this-world person you've managed to chum up with, because this friend is, like, the most brilliant person ever, and is soooo funny, and can juggle 4 oranges, and knows all the cords for Bohemian Rhapsody, and there was that night that you were sitting in the common room playing pool and then these guys came in and it was, like, sooooo funny, and you were all up till midnight and had this great chat about Plato and Aristotle; and then, in a flash of doom, you realise that none of that is going to make up for the fact that she's going to leave wet towels on the bed.
You suddenly realise that this new friend is so unexpectedly cool because she is precisely the kind of person your parents have spent 18 years steering you away from (although my parents never did this, on the basis that weird/bad/scary friends were better than no friends at all (no offense intended to those I was friends with at school (or at least, most of you. Others of you, my parents were right about))). You realise, in short, that your parents are going to hate your new friend, and she is going to hate your parents, and they are going to think you're wasting your time at university, and be A Bit Disappointed, and that makes you sad.
So anyway, the Pope's visit could have gone that way. It was all well and good inviting him over (it's about time we had a bit of pomp and style, it'll fill up the tv schedules, and the souvenir sales will boost the economy); but I think in all honesty the organisers have spent the past couple of weeks in a state of dread, what with the creeping realisation that quite a lot of people are still a bit out of sorts with that whole child abuse thing, and the gay thing, and the women thing, and that maybe this could all go hideously wrong and the Queen would get cross and ban him from the country, or Richard Dawkins would get to be on TV some more.
Thus far, however, things appear to be going according to plan, with Benny receiving a reasonable welcome in Scotland (having been greeted by Her Majesticness with the words "It was a very small car you arrived in, wasn't it? Very tight squeeze?" If only she had added "When you go down to London, we'll get Philip to drive us in the Rolls", my week would have been made), and a reasonable amount of protesting and so on.
My particular favourite comment so far was made by the head of the Catholic Church in Scotland, who, musing on Ian Paisley's contribution to the occasion, commented that "Bascially, if Ian Paisley didn't come, I wouldn't have thought the visit was worthwhile."
Other commentators have chipped in with their tuppenceworth, including our good friends, the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre:
and the esteemed Professor Billy McWilliams, who, much like myself, was in 2 minds as to whether to protest*, and then decided not to.
* Technically, I never had any intention of protesting, because that would have involved going to Scotland, and protesting, and also being interested enough to be Against the whole thing, and also choosing to be on the side of Richard Dawkins.