Pope praises Anglican turned Catholic ahead of Britain trip

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Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday praised John Henry Newman, a 19th century Anglican who converted to Catholicism and who will be beatified during the pontiff's visit to Britain this week.

"His personality and his teachings can be a source of inspiration for our era and for ecumenism," the pope told pilgrims, speaking in French, after his weekly Angelus prayer at his summer residence near Rome.

The pontiff told the pilgrims and faithful he is "delighted to visit the great country" of Britain and thanked them for their prayers ahead of the four-day visit, which begins on Thursday.

Benedict last year announced measures making it easier for disaffected Anglicans to join the Roman Catholic fold, a move that created some tensions with the Anglican Communion.

Some 65,000 people are expected to attend Newman's beatification mass on September 19 in Birmingham.

Newman is now revered as one of the Catholic Church's leading theologians.

In the 1830s, after trying to "renew" the Anglican Church, he became convinced that Catholicism was the only true faith and converted to Catholicism, then rising to become a cardinal.

Benedict's trip to London and Birmingham in England and the Scottish cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow is the first state visit by a pope since 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, not a state visit.

© 2010 AFP

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