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UK papal visit background: Westminster cathedral, Hyde Park [updated]

Catholic World News - September 15, 2010

Pope Benedict will begin September 18, the third day of his apostolic journey to the United Kingdom, with separate meetings with Prime Minister David Cameron, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, and acting opposition leader Harriet Harman. The meetings will take place in the residence of Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster.

Cameron is an Anglican, while Clegg is an agnostic, though Clegg’s wife and children are Catholic. Harman, whose husband is a Catholic, championed the equality bill that both the Pope and the British hierarchy denounced as a threat to religious liberty.

At 10:00, Pope Benedict will celebrate Mass at the Cathedral of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ in Westminster. Designed in the Byzantine style by John Francis Bentley and consecrated in 1910, the cathedral features famed Stations of the Cross by Eric Gill.

No further public events are planned until 5:00, when the Pontiff visits St. Peter’s Residence for the elderly in Lambeth. The home, which has 56 residents, is run by the Little Sisters of the Poor. The sisters have cared for the elderly poor in England since 1851; the present building was constructed in 1984.

Following the visit, Pope Benedict will travel to the prayer vigil on the eve of the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman. The vigil will take place at Hyde Park, originally part of the property of the Benedictine monks of Westminister Abbey until Henry VIII made it a place for hunting. “It was the site of the gallows where many of the Reformation martyrs, both Catholic and Anglican, were executed, and therefore it has a unique ecumenical significance,” according to the official papal visit web site.

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