Pope Prepares for Summer of Rest with UK Visit on his Mind


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(06 July 10 -RV) Wednesday afternoon, following his weekly general audience with pilgrims, Pope Benedict XVI leaves on vacation. This year the Holy Father will spend most of July and August at the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo. All private and special audiences will be suspended during the Pope's holidays, including general audiences normally held on Wednesdays. The next general audience after July 7 will be held on August 4.

During this period of rest, Pope Benedict XVI will, however, publicly recite the Angelus prayers on Sundays.

In September, shortly after his return to the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI will travel to the United Kingdom. Last Friday , the Holy Father met with Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, England, president of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, accompanied by Cardinal Keith Michael Patrick O'Brien of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh, Scotland, president of the Bishops' Conference of Scotland, and by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, archbishop emeritus of Westminster.

On Monday his official itinerary for the UK trip was announced by Fr Federico Lombardi, Vatican Press Office Director: "Accepting the invitation of Her Majesty Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom, and of the Bishops' Conferences of England and Wales, and of Scotland, His Holiness Benedict XVI will make an apostolic trip to the United Kingdom from 16 to 19 September".

Archbishop Vincent Nichols spoke to us about his recent meeting with the Pope and the build up to this historic visit:

"The papal visit which is a state visit begins with the Pope being welcomed by the Her Majesty the Queen at Holyroodhouse Palace in Edinburgh. Then he travels on to Glasgow, where he will celebrate Mass with a large number of people in Bellahouston Park. That evening on Thursday evening he flies down to London, and on Friday morning goes to St Mary's College in Twickeham. There he will meet with many youngsters from Catholic schools and reflects on the role of the Church in education and the vision of education as we want to promote in our world today. Then there is a meeting with leaders from different sectors in civil society who are men and women of different faith, so its an interfaith meeting. Friday evening he comes into central London with three quite remarkable events. The first is a visit to the Archbishop of Canterbury in Lambeth Palace; the second is a speech to leaders of the United Kingdom, in Westminster Hall, which is probably one of the most important buildings in London. It has been used since medieval times as a place for banquets and gatherings and indeed for trials, St Thomas Moore was put on trial and actually condemned to death there. Then the Pope will leave Westminster Hall and go to Westminster Abbey were there will be Evening Prayer with all the different Christians from the UK assembled together and he and the Archbishop of Canterbury will go and pray together at the tomb of St Edward the Confessor, the great Saint who was an English monarch, who built the first Westminster Abbey. Then on Saturday he comes to Westminster Cathedral, he meets the Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition and the deputy Prime minster and celebrates Mass here. Then on Saturday afternoon he visits a residential home for the care of the elderly and then in the evening leads a vigil of prayer in Hyde Park. Then on Sunday he goes to Birmingham to Cofton Park where he celebrates the beatification of Venerable Cardinal John Henry Newman".

Q: There have been some concerns that perhaps Cofton and some of the other venues aren't as big as Catholics there in Britain had been hoping that it won't be possible for all that many people to be able to actually see the Pope in person on this trip, what can you say to that?

"There are three large outdoor events, and in an age of safety regulations, security problems, making sure that nothing can possibly go wrong, three major outdoor events in three different locations in three days is a real challenge. Then there will be drives that the Pope will make in the Popemobile through the centres of the cities, and that will give a lot more people the chance to come out and to greet him and to show him their support. Then we will have full live coverage on our website and we are also producing a booklet with all of the liturgies that will the Pope will preside at, so that people whether they are sitting in front of their televisions or in front of giant screens in their parish community centres can pray together with the Pope, following him word for word, while he is here".

Q: Archbishop Nichols, what can you tell us also about the costs of this visit, because there has been some debate about rising costs, what the Church is paying and what the government is paying...

"With the appointment of Lord Patten as the personal representative of the Prime Minister and with is statements this morning it is perfectly clear that the British Government is very supportive of this visit, totally committed to its success and ready to meet its share of the costs. The Catholic community is likewise totally committed to this visit. It is a state visit, every aspect of it is part of a state visit, but the Catholic community will willingly and readily support those aspects of the visit which are quite explicitly an expression of Catholic faith. So the liturgies, the moments of prayer, those aspects of the visit will be entirely funded by the Catholic community. The overarching costs, in some ways may seem rather a lot, but if you compare them to cost of the G20 summit last summer which lasted for one day, this visit costs probably about half of that one day G20 summit. So in terms of Britain's standing in the world, in terms of the UK's presence on the world stage the cost of this visit are not considerable at all".