MY WEEK IN WESTMINSTER

HISTORY was made this Friday at Pope Benedict XVI’s official state visit to Parliament.

The visit, the first official state reception for the leader of the Catholic Church – as opposed to a pastoral visit – was a truly unique moment which may never be replicated again in my lifetime.

I was fortunate enough to be present in the incredible 900 year old Westminster Hall and felt truly humbled to be included on such a groundbreaking day.

As with all papal visits and most large scale religious events, the visit was, of course, shrouded in controversy and protest.

I, like everyone else, saw the protests, letters and newspaper coverage on the issues the Catholic church currently faces at this difficult time.

It is clear that the scandals linked to priests as well as the church’s positions on some other issues are at odds with many people’s views in a 21st century Western democracy.

There are, however, six million Roman Catholic’s in the UK and I know many will be keen to hear what their leader has to say.

However, at this time, where global events have shown us that religious tolerance and understanding are absolutely vital to efforts to achieve peace around the world I would urge people to show understanding.

Education is vital and I believe that we would all be well served by a greater understanding of the issues faced by all faiths in the world, particularly in an age of increasingly multi-cultural societies all across the world.

To that end I will be visiting Jordan and the West Bank for a couple of days in the next few weeks as part of a trip organised by the Conservative Middle East Council to attempt to gain a greater understanding of the issues in that region.

Clearly the conflicts which have been dominating that region for so many years are a huge global concern and, as I stated in this space a couple of weeks ago, I welcome the recommencement of talks between Israel and Palestine at the White House.

The day after the Pope’s visit, however, was perhaps my most enjoyable of last week.

On Saturday I held two of my regular constituency surgeries to listen to the problems of a number of local residents.

I always try to be of assistance whether it is writing letters of support on their behalf or just a helpful word of advice.

This is my bread and butter and I am extremely keen to pride myself on being a good constituency MP.

I hope that anyone who crosses my path during my time representing Fylde will go away feeling that I have their best interest at heart.

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