Catholics will show 'loyalty' to pope on visit to Britain

14th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

The leader of Roman Catholics in England and Wales said Wednesday he was confident the faithful would show "profound loyalty" towards Pope Benedict XVI on his visit to Britain this week.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols said Catholics were looking forward "very much indeed" to the four-day visit despite lower-than-expected turnout for events featuring the pope, especially an open-air mass in Glasgow on Thursday.

"The Catholic tradition in this country is one of actually very profound loyalty to the person of the Holy Father," he told a press conference ahead of the visit to Scotland and England.

"While many would want to suggest differences of trends and opinion, this way or not, I am quite sure, and it is my experience in parish after parish, standing at the back of Westminster Cathedral day after day, that Catholics are looking forward to this visit very much indeed.

"The Catholic people of this country know what it is to show their affection and support for Pope Benedict."

Nichols said pilgrims "on 1,000 coaches" would attend the beatification ceremony for Cardinal John Henry Newman which the pope will carry out in Birmingham, central England, on Sunday.

The beatification, or blessing in heaven, will bring the 19th century clergyman one step closer to becoming England's first non-martyred saint since before the Reformation.

Nichols said the Church expected around 54,000 to 55,000 people to attend the mass and beatification, which is expected to be the highlight of the visit.

The figure is about 10,000 lower than the Catholic Church said earlier this year had been invited to attend, by buying a "pilgrim pack" costing up to 25 pounds (30 euros, 39 dollars).

The pope will also hold an open-air prayer vigil in London's Hyde Park, on Saturday.

Benedict will be the first pope to pay a state visit to Britain. His predecessor John Paul II made a "pastoral" visit in 1982, when he was greeted by huge crowds.

© 2010 AFP

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