Monday, January 21, 2008

A planned trick?

Shock horror! Ian Paisley, the guy who had all of western Europe's MEPs cringing when he stood up in Strasbourg and called Pope John Paul II an antichrist, has taken part in an Christian service led by a Roman Catholic priest.
It was a scouting service, and the prayers were led by Fr Paul Symonds. Paisley gave the address.
We shouldn't be surprised. This is just another milestone in the transformation of Ian Paisley from bigoted zealot to inclusive man of God. Five years back he'd never have believed he could have enjoyed working with Martin McGuinness, and I'd say five days ago he'd never have thought he could survive an ecumenical service. He's still breathing.
After the event he said he'd not been told it would happen, and that if he'd been told he'd have refused to take part. I wonder. Paisley - like Trimble before him - is leading his voters from the front, i.e. doing more realpolitik than they would dare wish to be seen asking him to do. It's an interesting set of dynamics, and exciting too. Was it planned? Or, as Norn Iron usage has it, choreographed?
One clue will be in today's reactions of his party's frontmen. There will be at least one dissenting voice - hey, who wants it to be too obvious! - but if the majority feeling is behind Paisley ("and wasn't it a mean trick"), I think we'll have our answer because such non-commitment will allow face to be saved if the party grassroots revolt (unlikely IMHO). On the other hand, if the frontmen play it down we'll know it wasn't orchestrated because that'll be plain old-fashioned embarrassment.
There may be a bit of reverse logic in there, but such is life in NI.
On the other hand, maybe this was just octogenarian Ian wanting to meet a few RCs before he gets to Heaven, 'cos there's sure to be some waiting to greet him - including JP2 who, I don't doubt it for a moment, will be wearing that same puzzled but loving expression I like to call the "Strasbourg Smile".


At 1:16 a.m., Anonymous bill said...

Are you SURE there are Catholics in Heaven? (Shhhhhh, don't tell the Big Fella, let it be a surprise.)

At 12:25 p.m., Blogger El Matador said...

Don't speak too soon- I've just posted an article on this issue over on my own blog!

At 10:36 p.m., Anonymous bill said...

e.m.; I have just taken the liberty of commenting on your site. Hope you don't mind. I would recommend, for any who wish to read it, Dr. J. Philip Newell's book "Listening for the Heartbeat of God/A Celtic Spirituality". Please ignore the error of Queen Margaret's marriage date (he will correct in in the next reprint) but please, if you will, have a look at Christianity before it became a cause of division between folk. Personally, I think that Celtic spirituality should be left as such but if Christianity wants to highjack it to improve the product, so be it. There's room for all. Philip's international quest may eventually erase all the antipithy between the schisms.


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