It was in his Letter to Families that John Paul II contrasted the two civilisations which live side by side in the world today. The expression the "civilisation of love", he said, comes from the Second Vatican Council; that "Christ fully reveals man to himself and makes known his sublime calling." The Church is the herald and the promoter of this civilisation, and the family lies at its heart.
Another civilisation exists today, one which is linked to scientific and technological progress. It is agnostic in theory and utilitarian in practice. It is a civilisation of production, use and things, not of persons. In this civilisation, persons are objects for other persons, children and parents are a hindrance to each other. In this civilisation, the loss of truth about one's own self and about the family, leads to a loss of freedom, which leads to a loss of love.
The civilisation of use and things is embraced with particular vigour within the UK; excluding God and seeking success in whatever it decides to achieve. As Benedict XVI prepares to visit this island, I think of the visit of Gandalf to the Hall of Theoden in The Lord of the Rings; in the story Gandalf frees Theoden from the spell. May England be free to embrace the message of God's love which he brings, may England be free to embrace the Gospel.