Britain’s international reputation is at stake over Pope Benedict XVI’s trip in September, the Government co-ordinator for the papal visit has said.
Speaking at a press conference, Lord Patten of Barnes said the Government was determined to make the Holy Father’s trip a success “not only out of respect for the Pope, not only
out of determination to enhance the reputation of the United Kingdom, but because this will be an event followed by millions of people around the world”.
He said the Pope’s trip to Britain would put an end to any Catholic ever feeling like a “second-class citizen” because of its historic nature as a state visit.
The costs for the visit have soared. Lord Patten said that the Government would have to pay between £10 to £12 million for the state aspects of the visit instead of the original £8 million. This does not include policing costs.
But Lord Patten pointed out that just one day of the G20 conference in London last year cost the state £90 million, whereas the costs of the Pope’s visit would span over four days.
The Church’s costs have also risen. Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, the president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, said that the Church had managed to raise almost £5 million, including £1.1 million through the special collection at Pentecost.
In the next two days parishes across England and Wales will learn how to apply for invitations to papal events in Bellahouston Park, Glasgow, Hyde Park in London, and Cofton Park near Birmingham.
Archbishop Nichols said that access to events would not be limited to Catholics alone. Non-Catholics wishing to attend should approach their local Catholic parish. He said that people going to the events – whom he described as pilgrims – would have to travel to the papal
events in groups for security reasons.
As on other recent papal trips, there is “careful consideration” being given to the possibility of Benedict XVI meeting victims of clerical abuse.
But Archbishop Nichols said: “It’s very important that, if such a visit was to take place, it is not seen as a way to use those who have suffered – whose pain is intense and continuing – to satisfy some kind of public agenda or public curiosity. Nobody should be pressing the Pope to meet victims of abuse in order to get a good photograph.”
Lord Patten and Archbishop Nichols also confirmed the papal itinerary. The Pope will first visit Scotland, where he will meet the Queen at Holyrood, before going to Glasgow to celebrate Mass for 100,000 people at Bellahouston Park.
On September 17, Pope Benedict will be in London, first at St Mary’s Twickenham, where he will meet members of other religions and celebrate Catholic education with thousands of school children and the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove.
In the afternoon the Pope will meet Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury and other Anglican bishops at Lambeth Palace. He will subsequently give a speech at Westminster Hall to representatives of civil society, before having ecumenical evening prayers at Westminster Abbey, where he and Dr Williams will pray in front of the tomb of St Edward the Confessor.
Pope Benedict will celebrate Mass at Westminster Cathedral on September 18. He will visit a residential home for the elderly. He will then take part in a prayer vigil in Hyde Park before going to Birmingham the next day to beatify John Henry Newman at Cofton Park.
After a brief stop at Birmingham Oratory, Pope Benedict XVI will go to Oscott seminary, where he will meet the English and Welsh bishops, before returning to Rome.