In 1982, Pope John Paul II came to Britain. The charismatic Pole drew huge crowds wherever he went. The Catholic Church was reinvigorated. People spoke of the feel good factor he left in his wake.
Twenty eight years on, Pope Benedict will come on a short state visit which has already been plagued by discontent and threats of protest.
There are three main reasons why events during this Papal visit might still not be sold out, why people are questioning the wisdom of a visit right now.
First there is church dogma.
Despite strong medical evidence that condoms help prevent the spread of HIV, the virus that can lead to Aids and that they can help with population control, particularly in poorer countries, the Catholic Church still believes their use is sinful, that they are against God’s teachings. Many Catholics believe this – and the Church’s position on homosexuality – are out of step with society.
Then there is the child abuse scandal which has engulfed the church globally.
Many victims believe the Church historically ignored the problem and even now is only taking action to protect its reputation and finance. The last scandal on Belgium detailed abuse linked to the Church over fifty years, with more than 300 victims and linked to at least 13 suicides.
And finally personality.
Pope Benedict simply doesn’t enjoy the level of affection inspired by his predecessor. He’s seen as cold, clinical and out of touch.
In such times, it would be hard to lose sight of the good the Catholic Church does. It’s support for the needy and vulnerable around the world the good people with good hearts who use their religion to do good.
The pope will use his UK trip to give voice to those people – to that work.
He’ll have to pray his message isn’t drowned out.