Vatican declares pope's visit to Britain a success

19th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Pope Benedict XVI's state visit to Britain has been a "spiritual success", his spokesman said here Sunday.

Father Federico Lombardi said the pontiff was happy that his message of Catholicism's "positive contribution" to society had hit home during the four-day trip to Scotland and England.

"It is a spiritual success," the Vatican spokesman told reporters, describing the visit as "wonderful" after the pope presided over the climax of his visit, a beatification mass for 19th century cardinal John Henry Newman in Birmingham, central England.

"The pope is not happy because there are big crowds, but because we have the clear demonstration that people were interested in what he had to say," Lombardi said.

"Hundreds of thousands of people have met the pope personally in the street and at the major events and also, through television and the Internet, many others have seen him and heard what he has to say.

"The message that he has about the positive contribution of the Catholic Church and of Christian faith to society has been received very well."

It was only the second papal trip to Britain since king Henry VIII broke with Rome in 1534, forming the Church of England.

Lombardi said the visit had been "very positive" in bringing the Catholic and Anglican churches closer together.

The pope's speeches in London, before civil society and political leaders, had been warmly welcomed, he added.

Commenting on Saturday's protests in London, he said: "If there are critics and protests, this is normal for us and the pope and it is a positive sign of freedom of expression in this society."

Pope Benedict left Birmingham's Cofton Park after the beatification mass, heading for a private visit to the city's Oratory of St Philip Neri.

He was later to have lunch and a meeting with the bishops of England, Scotland and Wales before making a farewell speech and flying back to Rome.

The pope has also visited Edinburgh, Glasgow and London during the visit.

© 2010 AFP

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