Vatican Not Sweating UK Protests

Aide Says Objectors Represent Minority

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By Carmen Elena Villa

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 10, 2010 ( The Vatican isn’t worried about the possibility of protests during Benedict XVI’s visit to the United Kingdom next week, says a spokesman.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi met today with journalists who asked about hostility toward the Sept. 16-19 Papal visit. A campaign called Protest the Pope is organizing a march through London on Sept. 18, which will voice concerns over the Church’s handling of the sexual abuse crisis, among other issues.

Father Lombardi said that with regard to the protests, «there is nothing on our part over which we must be worried,» and that such events are part «of the normal climate of a pluralist society, such as the British, in which there is great liberty of expression, and in which Catholics are a minority.»
Out of 51 million inhabitants in the United Kingdom, 5 million are Catholic. Of these, it is estimated that around one million attend Mass every Sunday.
Father Lombardi also referred to a recently published report in the English Catholic newspaper The Tablet, which shows that only a minority is hostile to the Pope.
«The echo of these protests, moreover, seems higher than the reality of the effective climate of the population,» Father Lombardi explained. «Instead, the results of some surveys also show that interest in the Pope’s visit is not little, whereas hostility is represented by a minority.»
The trip to the United Kingdom will be the 17th international journey for Benedict XVI’s, and the spokesman said «the expectation is notable.»
Politicians, Newman
Father Lombardi confirmed that the Pope will not attend the official dinner given by the English government Sept. 17 at the Lancaster House. Representing him at the dinner will be the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
Questioned about the Holy Father’s absence, the spokesman replied that for reasons of protocol the Pope «does not dine with political personalities.» He explained that the Pontiff is a religious leader, not a political one.


Father Lombardi also commented on how Benedict XVI is breaking his own precedent by presiding at the beatification Mass on Sept. 19 for Cardinal John Henry Newman.

The last time a Pontiff presided at a beatification ceremony was in October 2004 when Pope John Paul II presided at the beatification of Peter Vigne, Joseph-Marie Cassant, Anna Katharina Emmerick, Maria Ludovica De Angelis and Charles I of Austria.

From the begining of his pontificate, the Pope established that beatification ceremonies would take place in the diocese of origin of the blessed, and that they would be presided over by the president of the Pontifical Council of Saints’ Causes.

Father Lombardi said the Cardinal Newman beatification is «an exception,» and that the decision should be seen in a «positive sense.»

Additionally, the spokesman noted that the ceremony is not only «very much united to the Pope’s trip to the United Kingdom,» but that it is also a «particular sign of the appreciation, interest and importance» the Holy Father attributes to the figure of Cardinal Newman. «It’s an indubitable fact,» he said.

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