Pope hopes to bridge image 'gap' in British trip

15th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Pope Benedict hopes to address a "gap" in public perception of the Catholic Church after recent child sex scandals when he visits Britain this year, aides said in plans for the trip unveiled Tuesday.

Archbishop Vincent added that the pope's September 16-19 visit could give a crucial spiritual boost to Britain as it struggles to recover from the global financial downturn.

"Catholicism can easily become defined in the public mind in the light of one or two recent controversies," said a pamphlet setting out the purpose of the three-day papal visit, the first to Britain in nearly 30 years.

"This is the gap in public knowledge that this pamphlet aims to address," it added, without referring specifically to the sex abuse scandals rocking the Roman Catholic Church, notably in Britain's neighbour Ireland.

The booklet, entitled 'The Pope in the UK', includes sections on child protection within the Church, the contribution of the Catholic Church to British society and on the purpose of the Catholic Church itself.

Benedict's visit to Britain will be the first by a pope since 1982, when a six-day tour by John Paul II's drew huge crowds. He was the first pope to make the trip for 450 years.

Benedict XVI will be received at the start of his tour by Queen Elizabeth II, the head of the Church of England, in Edinburgh, before travelling to Glasgow and London.

He will also beatify Cardinal John Henry Newman, a 19th century theologian, at a special ceremony at Coventry airport in northern England.

The visit to Britain -- which has five million Catholics -- "is a really very significant moment for this country", said Nichols.

"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 constraints," he added.

The pope's visit to Britain will come amid lingering tensions between the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches following a move by the Vatican last November to make it easier for disgruntled Anglicans to convert to Catholicism.

The trip is expected to cost around seven million pounds (8.4 million euros/10.4 million dollars) and will be paid for by the British state and Catholic Church. A full itinerary of the visit will be released two months before the trip, in July.

© 2010 AFP

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