Catholic Church seeks to clarify purpose of Pope’s visit

Catholic churches across England, Scotland and Wales are to receive a booklet this weekend which attempts to set out the purpose of Pope Benedict’s state visit in September.

Around 300,000 copies of the booklet ‘Heart speaks unto heart’ have been printed to ensure copies get into the hands of as many people as possible.

It answers questions such as why the Pope is meeting the Queen, why he is meeting leaders of other faiths, and why he is beatifying Cardinal John Henry Newman.

The Archbishop of Westminster and head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols, said the booklet was intended to help those “curious” or “ill-informed” about the visit.

“The visit of the Pope in response to the invitation of the Queen is really a very significant moment for this country,” he said.

“As a society we are entering into a period – and perhaps a prolonged period – that is going to be difficult and in times of difficulty we need all the inner resources that we can muster and the resource of religious faith is a crucially important one for giving society stability and generosity, especially in times of financial constraint.

“People recognise that and therefore they recognise the importance and sensitivity of the message of the Pope, who will wish to say that faith in God is not a problem but a gift to be received.”

The Archbishop said the beatification of Cardinal Newman would be a “pastoral highlight” of the Pope’s visit and that large turnouts were anticipated at the stops on his tour.

“The Pope is representing the biggest single religious network in the world, representing at least a fifth of the world’s population. When he is here his visit to this country is a worldwide event and it will be followed worldwide and we shouldn’t scale it down to something that is touching five million Catholics in this country,” the Archbishop added.

The booklet was launched today together with a new logo for the visit designed by stained glass painter Brian Clarke. The logo is formed of a glowing candle set against a rich blue background and accompanied by Cardinal Newman’s motto, ‘Heart speaks unto heart.’

When asked if the booklet had been put together in response to a leaked Foreign Office memo mocking the Pope’s visit, the Archbishop noted that it had been planned months before but quipped that he hoped the Foreign Office would be among its recipients.

A papal visit party will spend next week checking the progress made so far in preparations for the Pope’s three-day visit, which will include a meeting with the Queen, the beatification of Cardinal Newman, and an open-air vigil in London’s Hyde Park.

Cardinal Newman’s beatification is expected to take place at Coventry Airport. The Catholic Church has already pledged £7 million towards the cost of the Pope’s visit. The Archbishop said the Church would be clearer about the exact cost of his visit by the end of next week’s meetings with the papal visit party.

A detailed timetable will be made available two months before the Pope’s visit, which takes place from 16 to 19 September.