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Pope Celebrates Mass in Scotland

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It was a very special occasion for the tens of thousands of people attending Pope Benedict's open air mass in Bellahouston Park in Glasgow, Scotland, during the first day of his state visit to Britain.  Some said they never thought they would one day get to see the pope.  The last visit by a pontiff was when John Paul II came on a pastoral visit 28 years ago.

"I think it is a very important occasion for Scotland because this man represents what I hope is a message of peace and unity for Christians," said one person in attendance.

Scottish-born pop star Susan Boyle joined an 800-member choir in singing hymns at the mass.  She said singing for the pope was something she has always dreamed about.

In his homily, the pope spoke to the many young people who turned out for the mass.  He said that many temptations are placed in front of them, like drugs, money, sex, pornography and alcohol.  The world tells you, the pope said, that these will bring happiness, yet these things are destructive and divisive.

Pope Benedict arrived in Britain to start a four-day visit that also will take him to London and Birmingham.  His first meeting was in Edinburgh with Queen Elizabeth II, who gave him a warm welcome.

"Religion has always been a crucial element in national identity and historical self-consciousness," said Queen Elizabeth II.  "This has made the relationship between the different faiths a fundamental factor in the necessary cooperation within and between nation states.  It is therefore vital to encourage greater mutual and respectful understanding."

There remains strong opposition in Britain to Benedict's hard line against homosexuality, abortion and using condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS.  Victims of sexual abuse by the clergy also are demanding that the pope do more to prevent anything like that happening again.

Addressing journalists on the papal plane from Rome, the pope made his most thorough admission to date of church failures to stop pedophile priests.  He acknowledged the Church did not act decisively or quickly enough against them.

Despite the opposition, a crowd of about 125,000 welcomed the pope in Edinburgh, warmly waving the Vatican flag.  Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the pope's    visit could not have started any better.


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