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Full schedule released for Pope's visit to UK

Catholic World News - August 18, 2010

The Vatican has published the official schedule for Pope Benedict’s trip to the United Kingdom in September.

The Pope will arrive on Thursday, September 16 in Scotland, and begin with an official visit to Queen Elizabeth at her palace in Edinburgh. That afternoon he will travel to Glasgow, where he will celebrate Mass at Bellahouston Park. Thursday evening the Pope will continue on to London, spending the night there.

On Friday, September 17, the Pope’s day will begin with a meeting for Catholic educators at St. Mary’s University College. Later in the morning he will participate in an interfaith assembly. In the afternoon he will visit the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, and then lead an ecumenical assembly at Westminster Abbey.

On Saturday the Pope will meet with Prime Minister David Cameron and with opposition leader Harriet Harman. Then he will preside at Mass in the cathedral at Westminster. That afternoon he will visit a nursing home. In the evening he will lead a prayer vigil in Hyde Park, leading up to Sunday’s beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman.

The Pope will preside at the beatification ceremonies on Sunday, September 19, at Cofton Park in Birmingham. Following that ceremony he will visit the Oratory that Cardinal Newman made famous. His last official activity will be a meeting with the Catholic bishops of England, Wales, and Scotland. The Holy Father will return to Rome on Sunday night.

Commenting on the schedule for the papal visit, Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, observed that it is “a very rich, intense, and articulate program.”

The highlight of the Pope’s visit, Father Lombardi confirmed, will be the beatification of Cardinal Newman. The Pope arranged the visit in order to participate in that ceremony, he recalled. And Cardinal Newman is a figure of enormous importance to today’s culture, he added, because he is “the perfect figure to present the dignity of Christian witness as capable of addressing the problems and the biggest questions of modern man, to modern society.” In addition, the Vatican spokesman called attention to the Pope’s meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury, saying:

We also know that it is a delicate moment for Anglicanism, because of internal debates. It is also a delicate time in relations with the Catholic Church, because these debates also reflect on the relationship between Anglicans and Catholics.

Asked to comment on the controversy in England about the suggested contribution for tickets to the papal events, Father Lombardi said that criticism of the Vatican on that score is “absolutely unfounded.” He pointed out, first, “the Vatican did not establish any rules in this regard.” The arrangements were made by local officials, he noted. Moreover, he explained, it was necessary to require tickets because there will be limited access to the venues where the Pope will appear, and to the means of transportation that will bring pilgrims to those sites. Thus, he said, “the seats must be allocated to an extremely precise number.” Because there were substantial costs involved in preparing for the events, he said, it made sense to ask those attending the events to help defray the expenses.

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