The forces of Catholicism, which girded themselves yesterday in Scotland, are moving south. The Pope arrives in London this morning to be met off his plane by the City’s mayor, Boris Johnson. That the Pontiff should choose to arrive by EasyJet, rather than march south in the traditional manner, picking up supporters on the way  from among loyal Catholic enclaves in Yorkshire and the midlands, rather spoils the drama of the situation.  True it is mildly amusing to watch an old man with undisciplined white hair, incompletely kept in check by a skull cap, bob about on the tarmac with a younger man with undisciplined white hair, incompletely kept in check by a barber with an ulcer the size of Vatican City, but think how much richer the tableau could have been. Somewhere outside Luton say, his Holiness‘ forces are met on the field by the regiments of Godlessness, under the leadership of Duke Stephen of Fry and the Earl of Dawkins.    “O Twitter, thou knowest how busy I must be this day; if I forget thee, do not thou forget me”. Ninety-six characters and the blood of a thousand Englishmen soaking into the Bedfordshire dirt.

Somehow, I doubt whether the ragtail army of humanists, activists and publicity-seekers gathering in protest outside St Mary’s College (do they appreciate the irony I wonder) will provide quite the same level of opposition, no matter how much noise they make.  Nor the gentle Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, who has clearly concluded that the Church of England doesn’t have a dog in this fight and will content himself  instead by sitting down with the Pope to pray, in his case no doubt for the safe return of the various vicars so crudely interfered with by the left-footers. It is, of course, not so much that the Catholic Church should set out callously to seduce the nation’s parsons that should appall us, as the associated systematic cover-up.

Ill-mannered though the country’s reception has been in general for the Pope, the political class has done well to rise above it. And none more so than the doughty Annabel Goldie, who as leader of the Tories in Scotland, might be regarded as already having been dealt with enough of life’s duff cards, even before being asked by the Duke of Edinburgh, and apparently within the Pontiff’s earshot, whether she was wearing tartan knickers. One would like to know really whether he would ever speak to his wife like that.

No fewer than four former prime ministers are expected in London to help keep His Holiness entertained. These  include Gordon Brown, himself on an excursion to the Smoke from Scotland, and showing that, embattled as it may be, the Catholic Church can still bring about miracles. Baroness Warsi meanwhile, the chairman of the Conservative Party, declares that the coalition “does do God” and presumably she has some idea of what she means by that statement.

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