News / Europe

Pope Wraps Up Historic Visit to Britain

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Jennifer Glasse

On a four-day trip to Britain, Pope Benedict warned against aggressive secularism, and expressed sorrow for child-abuse scandals that have rocked the Roman Catholic Church.

Pope Benedict's mission in Britain appeared to revitalize his Church, but he acknowledged the challenges it faces.  He said the child abuse scandals had damaged the credibility of the Catholic Church.  During his visit he met in private with five abuse victims and expressed his shame and deep sorrow for their suffering.

He publicly proclaimed his sadness at a Mass in London's Catholic Cathedral. "Above all, I express my deep sorrow to the innocent victims of these unspeakable crimes," he said.

But for abuse victims like Lucy Duckworth, his words are not enough.  She was abused at the age of 6, 22 years ago. "My abuser is still a priest, practicing priest with unfettered access to children.  I am still struggling with my past," she said.

Duckworth was part of a protest of about 12,000 people who did not want the pope to visit Britain . They object for a number of reasons. "From child abuse, to homophobia to opposing abortion, opposing stem cell research a not equal rights for women, the list goes on and in my opinion he has no place in our society today and certainly not my taxpayers money," she said.

Catholics turned out in the tens of thousands for services led by the pope in Scotland, London and Central England.   Mary Thorn was at the evening vigil in London's Hyde Park. "It has been amazing, a wonderful experience, very privileged to be here and be part of it," she said.

Rachel Moran was also thrilled. "It has been very, very important to me.  I am obviously a young Catholic.  I have never seen the pope before, and it is such a great witness," she said.

This is the first state visit by a pope to Britain since Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic Church in the 16th Century.

Pope Benedict made public acts of reconciliation with the main figures in the Anglican Church, Queen Elizabeth II, its head, and the Archbishop of Canterbury.  He beatified one of Britain's most prominent Catholics, Cardinal John Newman, the first beatification in Britain.  During his visit he warned against aggressive secularism and called for Christians to embrace their faith.

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