Pope Benedict XVI has confirmed the dates of a visit to the UK this year. The pontiff will visit the country from 16 to 19 September, in what will be the first papal UK visit since that of John Paul II in 1982.
The Pope will start his trip in Edinburgh, where he will be received by the Queen at Holyrood House.
He will beatify 19th Century theologian Cardinal John Henry Newman, visit the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace and pray at Westminster Abbey. The Pope will travel to Coventry airport for the beatification of Cardinal Newman, a convert to Catholicism. This will bring the cleric a step closer to becoming the first non-martyred English saint since the Reformation.
His itinerary will also include a giant open-air Mass in Glasgow’s Bellahouston Park, a prayer vigil in London and an event focusing on education.
He will give a “major speech” at Westminster Hall in the Houses of Parliament, it was announced at a news conference at the Foreign Office.
The theme of the visit will be relations between the Christian Churches and the major faiths.
His visit is expected to cost about £15m, organiser Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy said. Talks are under way between the government and Church to decide how much each will contribute, he said. On top of that, there will be the policing bill which must be met by existing police budgets, he added.
The Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, said Catholics were delighted. The head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales added: “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.”
Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh and president of the Catholic Bishops of Scotland, said he was “thrilled” the Pope had accepted the “gracious” invitation. “I am sure that his visit this year will bring us all renewed encouragement, vigour and joy as we seek to serve Christ in the circumstances of this present time.”
Mr Murphy, a Catholic, who is the minister leading preparations, said it would be “a truly unique event”. “It is the first ever official Papal visit to our country combining state-to-state discussions and related engagements as well as pastoral events being organised by the Catholic bishops’ conferences of England, Wales and Scotland,” he said.
Former Pope John Paul II came to Britain in 1982, but it was a pastoral trip, rather than an official visit.