Pope 'looking forward' to Britain trip

8th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Pope Benedict XVI said he was "very much looking forward" to his trip next week to Britain at his weekly general audience on Wednesday.

"I look forward to meeting representatives of the many different religious and cultural traditions that make up the British population, as well as civil and political leaders," the pontiff said at the Vatican.

The pope said he was "most grateful to Her Majesty the Queen (Elizabeth II) and to His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury" Rowan Williams for receiving him during the September 16-19 state visit.

Pope Benedict said he was "aware that a vast amount of work has gone into the preparations for the visit," and expressed his appreciation for all the efforts made to organise the trip.

The pope also said it would be "a particular joy" for him to beatify on September 19 in Birmingham the cardinal and writer John Henry Newman (1801-1890).

"This truly great Englishman... made a lasting contribution to Church and society both in his native land and in many other parts of the world," the pope said.

The trip to Edinburgh, Glasgow, London and Birmingham is the first official state visit by a pope since England's king Henry VIII broke with the church of Rome in 1534.

John Paul II in 1982 was the first pope to set foot in the country since the rupture, but the Vatican says that was a pastoral visit, thus not official.

The cost of the visit, estimated at more than 20 million euros (25 million dollars) has caused controversy in a country in which only about 10 percent of the population is catholic.

A recent poll said that more than three quarters of Britons were against public funding of the trip, even though Pope Benedict is visiting England and Scotland in his capacity as the Vatican's head of state.

© 2010 AFP

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