Vatican hails as success pope visit to Britain

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The Vatican's official newspaper celebrated Monday the "complete success" of Pope Benedict XVI's historic visit to Britain that defied the pessimistic predictions that had preceded the trip.

This "complete success" had been recognised and described by many press outlets in Great Britain, the l'Osservatore Romano said about the four-day visit that ended on Sunday.

The pontiff's "openness" and "simplicity", which were evident "at once in his person and his statements", help the visit defy the pessimistic predictions, the newspaper's director Giovanni Maria Vian said in his editorial.

In particular Vian praised Benedict's "strong words" on the paedophile priest scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church, and his meeting with some victims and a group dedicated to protecting young people.

Among other key moments on the trip according to l'Osservatore Romano, were the pope's meeting with Queen Elizabeth II and with British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told Radio Vatican the pope had been understood by many people, and "English Catholics, but equally English society, know better who the pope really is and so also know him as a friend."

There was widespread agreement in British newspapers on Monday that the pope had succeeded on his charm offensive during the visit, which took in Edinburgh, Glasgow, London and Birmingham.

"This was a much more successful visit than the Roman Catholic hierarchy had dared to hope," the Daily Mail commented.

The man reputed to be "God's Rottweiler" before he touched down in Edinburgh had shown another side, The Times said, with "thoughtful remarks on God and modern society in his softly spoken, German-accentuated English".

© 2010 AFP

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