News / Europe

Pope Benedict Arrives in Britain for State Visit

Diaa Bekheet

 

Pope Benedict XVI arrives in Britain today for a four-day visit - the first papal visit in nearly 30 years and the first state visit by a Pope to Britain since the 16th century when King Henry VIII broke away from Rome and formed the Anglican Church.  But the visit is not without controversy over recent revelations of sexual abuse of children by priests as well as the Church's stance on abortion, women in the clergy and homosexuality.

A Scottish military band outside Holyrood Palace in Scotland as Queen Elizabeth the Second greets Pope Benedict.  Both are heads of state and church leaders.

The Queen said much has changed in the nearly three decades since Pope John Paul II came to Britain and she reaffirmed the importance of the Catholic Church.

"The Holy See continues to have an important role in international issues, in support of peace and development and addressing common problems like  poverty and climate change," Queen Elizabeth said.

This papal visit to Britain comes in the wake of controversy over child abuse scandals in Europe and America, calls for women to be ordained and protests over the cost. The bishop of Westminster here in London is John Arnold.

"There is been a fairly strong voice of criticism quite rightly so, we are a democratic nation, and people have spoken about why they do not want him to be here and they have given their reasons why," Arnold said.

Arnold says now that Pope Benedict is here, he believes the occasion will be marked by celebration and joy, particularly large public events expected to draw tens of thousands of followers, such as an open air mass in London's Hyde Park, and the beatification of British Cardinal John Newman.

"I think  Hyde Park will be wonderful, I am sure that Bellahouston Park in Glasgow will be excellent too, and then we have got the beatification itself, which will be a special moment for the Catholic Community in this country," Arnold said.

Catholic Ansel Richardson welcomes the visit.

"It is a good opportunity to probably clear the air on issues surrounding the Catholic church right now," Richardson said.

Perhaps the largest issue is that of abuse of children by priests.  Catholic Carolyn Flatly hopes the church will change.   

"I think the Church has to be open to outside influences, such as child protection schemes and just accept that they need help," Flatly said.

On his way to Britain, Pope Benedict said the church has not been vigilant or quick enough in dealing with the abuse issue.

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