Bishops welcome confirmation of Pope’s UK visit

Catholic bishops from Scotland, England and Wales have welcomed confirmation of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the UK later this year.

The Queen announced yesterday that the Pope is to tour the UK from 16 to 19 September.

Head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols said: “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 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.”

Jim Murphy, the Government minister overseeing preparations for the visit, said the visit was "historic" and came at an important time.

“As well as providing spiritual leadership to over a billion Catholics around the world, including six million in the UK, the Pope and the Holy See have great influence on global policy in areas such as international development, sustainability and the relationships between religions," he said.

“The Papal visit represents an unprecedented opportunity to strengthen ties between the UK and the Holy See on action to tackle poverty and climate change as well as the important role of faith in creating strong and cohesive communities.

"We aim to build further on the positive relationship we have developed in recent years.”

It is the first visit to the UK by a pope since Pope John Paul II’s pastoral visit in 1982 and is the first ever official papal visit to the UK.

Highlights of the visit include a reception at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh hosted by the Queen. The Pope will deliver a speech at Westminster and visit Coventry to beatify the nineteenth century theologian and educationalist Cardinal John Henry Newman.

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, head of the Catholic Church in Scotland, said: "I am thrilled that the Pope has accepted the UK Government's gracious invitation and I am sure he will receive a heartfelt welcome from Catholics as well as members of other faiths and people of goodwill.

“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.”

His visit has been welcomed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who will receive the Pope at his official residence, Lambeth Palace in central London.

He said: “The Pope's visit will be an opportunity to cement ties not only between the Holy See and the United Kingdom but also the Roman Catholic Church and other Christian churches in Scotland, England and Wales.”