Pope reported to have no current plans to visit the UK

By staff writers
February 20, 2009

Several hours after British PM Gordon Brown extended an invitation to the Pope to visit the UK, the Vatican made a statement saying he had no current plans to do so.

"For the moment, no travel by Benedict XVI to the United Kingdom is scheduled or under consideration," Federico Lombardi, a spokesperson, has been quoted in the media as saying.

The last Pope to visit Britain was Benedict's predecessor, John Paul II, who became the first pontiff ever to visit Canterbury Cathedral where he prayed publicly with Robert Runcie, the then Archbishop of Canterbury.

He was also welcomed by the Queen at Buckingham Palace, and attended huge public meetings and open air Masses.

At that stage, John Paul II was seen as a reforming pope, but his policies became more hardline as he got older, and his successor - formerly Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, the Church's "theological enforcer" - is seen as having swung Catholicism further away from openness.

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