...in the magnificent setting of Westminster Hall,at the very heart of Parliament, with centuries of tradition echoing beneath its great hammer-beam roof and its Norman arches. Here, with the Archbishop of Canterbury by his side, a great array of Members of Parliament, several former Prime Ministers, and representatives of every aspect of public life in Britain, Pope Benedict XVI gave an address, touching on the moral realities that lie beneath the great issues of our day.
It was an unforgettable priviledge to be there. Beautiful gilt chairs had been set in rows, the Band of the Coldstream Guards played, and there was a sense of great and almost reverent expectancy. In the last moments before the Pope arrived, there was an absolute and extraordinary silence - it was as if we were in church.
The Pope spoke quietly, and has a gentle, academic style. He was vigorous in his warmth and praise for Britain's tradition of Parliamentary democracy, seeing this as a great achievement and a gift to the wider world. He emphasised that this was grounded in a culture of faith, and that faith and reason work together and complement one another. Attempts to marginalise faith, and in particular Christianity, will do grave harm to the common good, and to the liberty achieved through the great Westminster tradition.
It was a wonderful occasion - something glorious and magnificent in our history. A great sense of joy and goodwill.
I will remember this day as long as I live.