Pope Benedict on the threshold of announcing a visit to Britain

By staff writers
September 24, 2009

Catholic agencies are reporting that Pope Benedict XVI will visit Britain in 2010, after some months of rumour and speculation on the nature and timing of such a visit.

The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, extended a formal invitation to the Pope during a private audience in February 2009. The Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales also sent him a formal invitation in 2007. However the Vatican was reluctant to confirm the news at the time.

The historic visit will be the first official papal visit to Britain since Pope John Paul II made a widely publicised and ground-breaking pastoral visit in 1982.

During his time in the country, expected to be in September next year, Pope Benedict will have a meeting with the Queen, head of the Church of England, and will be accorded the full panoply of a state visit.

Sources say it is possible that the Pope will also stay with the Queen at Buckingham Palace. Mention has also been made of a meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.

Whether the visit will have the informality and impact of Pope John Paul II's visit 27 years ago is uncertain. That included praying with the Anglican Archbishop in Canterbury Cathedral and linked services in the Catholic and Anglican Cathedrals in Liverpool.

However, though he admires the academic prowess and integrity of Dr Williams, Pope Benedict is known to be concerned about what he sees as the liberalism of the Church of England, the fact that it has women priests and the global divisions of Anglicanism.

The pontiff is also likely to meet other faith, Christian and civic leaders.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols, President of the Bishops' Conference of England & Wales, commented: 'We are encouraged and pleased at the news which has emerged about the possible official visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the UK next year. We are glad the Holy Father is giving such consideration to the invitations he has received from Her Majesty's Government, which accord closely to the wishes and requests also expressed by the Bishops of England and Wales."

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