ROME, MARCH 16, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom announced today that Benedict XVI will be visiting September 16-19. Government and Church leaders are welcoming the upcoming event.
In a joint press conference, the state leaders together with representatives from the bishops’ conferences of Scotland, England and Wales, underlined the Pope’s visit as “an unprecedented opportunity to strengthen ties between the United Kingdom and the Holy See on global initiatives, as well as the important role of faith in creating strong communities.”
A press release from the British embassy to the Holy See reported that this is the first ever official Papal visit to that state, as the previous trip of Pope John Paul II in 1982 was a pastoral visit.
The Pontiff will be received by the queen at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, and will address the British civil society at Westminster Hall.
He will also preside over the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman at a public Mass in Coventry.
The visit will include another public Mass in Glasgow, Scotland, a prayer vigil in London and an event focused on education.
The Holy Father plans to visit the Archbishop of Canterbury and hold a prayer service with other Church leaders at Westminster Abbey. The communiqué noted that the visit will highlight relations between Christian Churches and interfaith relations.
Parliament Member Jim Murphy, Scotland’s secretary of state, who is the government minister in charge of the event preparations, stated that “this is an historic visit at an important time.”
“The Pope will receive a very warm welcome from Catholics and people of all faiths,” he said.
“As well as providing spiritual leadership to over a billion Catholics around the world, including six million in the United Kingdom, the Pope and the Holy See have great influence on global policy in areas such as international development, sustainability and the relationships between religions,” Murphy affirmed.
“The Papal visit represents an unprecedented opportunity to strengthen ties between the United Kingdom and the Holy See on local and global action to tackle poverty and climate change as well as the important role of faith in creating strong and cohesive communities,” he said. “We aim to build further on the positive relationship we have developed in recent years.”
Cardinal Keith O’Brien of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, president of the Scottish bishops’ conference, stated that he is “thrilled” about the upcoming visit.
He noted that “a defining feature of Pope Benedict’s teaching has been to remind Europe of its Christian roots and culture and to give us guidance on the great moral issues of our day and it is my hope that we all open our hearts to his words.”
The president of the bishops’ conference of England and Wales, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, affirmed that the U.K. Catholics are “delighted” to welcome Benedict XVI.
He expressed gratitude toward Queen Elizabeth II and her government for extending “this historic invitation” to the Pope.
“We are confident that the presence and message of Pope Benedict will encourage everyone to aspire again to a vision of life in our society marked by mutual trust, compassion and truth,” the archbishop affirmed.
He added: “The great Christian tradition of faith and life, which has so shaped our culture, has so much more to offer.
“This gentle yet profound teacher of his faith will encourage and strengthen all who receive his words.”
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On the Net:
Official Web site of Pope’s U.K. Visit: www.thepapalvisit.org.uk