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Bishop Hollis: Pope Benedict spoke to the nation

Pope Benedict greets young people outside Westminster Cathedral (Photo: PA)

Bishop Crispian Hollis of Portsmouth has described the papal visit as “remarkable” and “wonderfully spiritual”.

He said that Pope Benedict XVI, in contrast to John Paul II, had “gone out of his way to speak not simply to our Catholic community but to the nation”.

“He has done so with courage and conviction and has been heard respectfully and with gratitude by almost all who have listened to his words,” the bishop said.

Bishop Hollis, chairman of the bishops’ conference Department for Mission and Unity, said the meeting between the Pontiff and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, was characterised by “particular warmth and welcome”. The two leaders, he said, showed “considerable rapport”. The bishop was present at Lambeth Palace, along with Anglican bishops, during the meeting.

He said the subsequent ecumenical service was a “wonderfully spiritual experience”, one that facilitated “the intense prayer for unity that arose from the occasion”.

The historic address at Westminster Hall, he said, illustrated the Pope’s wish to broaden his message to those outside of the Catholic faith, “to the nation” as a whole.  

He described the Hyde Park vigil as a “tour de force” and the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman as “extraordinary for the enthusiasm of the celebration”.

Bishop Hollis said: “He [the Pope] has given us all – the Catholic community as well as the nation – much food for thought and much encouragement. He has confirmed us in our faith and we could not have asked for more.”

He said: “We were all tired at the end of the four days but our weariness can have been nothing compared with that of the Holy Father, who showed remarkable stamina and spirit – and gentle love – throughout the visit.”

Bishop Hollis ended by saying that the visit had been “extraordinary blessed days for us all” and wished to thank the many involved in the preparation of the visit, who had done a “remarkable job”. 

Archbishop Patrick Kelly of Liverpool was similarly upbeat. He told the Liverpool Echo: “We went through such negative publicity before the start of the visit – although not from our local media – but all this negativity has been proved completely wrong.

“All the cynicism and the negativity has been swept aside by ordinary people – mass gatherings which represented a cross-section of our society, rather than just one group.”