Henry II, the last of the Ottonian Holy Roman emperors, is the only German king to have been canonised. His personal holiness was never in doubt, for all that he was caught up in endless military campaigns. He was actively involved in promoting Church reform and the foundation of monasteries, but some would argue that his involvement in ecclesiastical affairs sometimes went too far. It was he, for example, who persuaded Pope Benedict VIII to include the filioque clause in the Nicene creed which led to the still-unresolved Great Schism of 1054.
‘Saintly’ is probably the last epithet anyone would think of applying to Donald Trump, but here he is, on 13 July 2018, the feast of St Henry, saying things that leave his hosts quietly choking into their handkerchiefs. Breaking all the rules of diplomacy, he swaggers his way through EU and British politics; and the danger is that, because he expresses himself crudely, we won’t necessarily hear the things we ought to hear, only those that irritate or disgust us; or, like the insertion of the filioque into the creed, we may miss the significance of something we agree to because we have our gaze fixed on another goal.
I hope that Mr Trump’s visit to the UK will clarify matters between our two countries, and that those involved in talks will keep cool heads and work for the common good. Perhaps someone should tell the President, quietly and courteously, that Britain repaid every last penny of her World War II debt to the USA. The much-vaunted help we received during the War years did not come free. Repaying the debt mattered, because there are things more important in life than making deals or producing winners and losers. Honour is one of them; trust is another; and the pursuit of peace, that Benedictine obsession, the greatest of them all.