Vatican confirms Pope's visit to Britain in September

5th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

The Vatican officially confirmed Monday Pope Benedict XVI's controversial visit to Britain in September, Vatican officials said.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said the Pope would visit Britain from September 16-19 at the invitation of Queen Elizabeth II.

The Pope will meet the Queen at Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, and representatives from the worlds of politics, culture and business at Westminster Hall in London.

An "evening of prayer" would be held in Hyde Park in the capital, the statement said.

The Pope would also preside over the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman, a 19th century theologian.

The visit, which was announced in March, has caused considerable controversy in Britain, following a series of child abuse scandals.

Firebrand former Northern Ireland leader and Protestant minister Ian Paisley called the invitation "a mistake" and slammed the Catholic Church for its response to child abuse.

Two prominent atheist activists have called for the Pope to be arrested for "crimes against humanity".

The Pope's visit will be only the second by the leader of the Catholic Church to Britain since the reign almost 500 years ago of Henry VIII. A visit by predecessor John Paul II in 1982 drew huge crowds.

There are approximately 4.2 million Catholics in Britain.

© 2010 AFP

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