Monday, July 5, 2010

Church expects no apologies in pope visit to Britain
Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Britain in September will not involve the "fire-fighting" and scandal over clerical child sex abuse, the head of the Catholic church in England and Wales said Monday.

Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols said that the pontiff would not be making further apologies on what was a "very historical visit" -- only the second by a pope to Britain since it split with the Catholic church in 1534.

The trip is already causing controversy in mainly on Anglican Britain due to the sex abuse row and also the cost, which officials put Monday at between ten and 12 million pounds.

"I don't think we will spend our time fire-fighting," Nichols told reporters ahead of the September 16-19 visit, the details of which were jointly confirmed by the British authorities and the Vatican on the Monday.

The archbishop said the English Catholic church had "rightly condemned the abuses and rightly criticised" the Vatican's response to the crisis.

But he said: "Nobody should be pressing the pope to meet victims of abuses to make a good photo opportunity. The visit is in the UK, which is not at Belgium, not Ireland, not the USA," referring to the countries worst hit by the abuse.

Benedict's visit will be only the second by the leader of the Catholic Church to Britain since king Henry VIII broke with Rome to form the Church of England at almost 500 years ago. The first was by John Paul II in 1982.

"The pope is enthusiastic, and very aware of the momentum and the magnitude of this visit," Nichols said.

Lord Chris Patten, who is organising the visit on the British side, said the trip was expected to cost Britain 10-12 million pounds excluding policing -- an increase on the previous estimate of eight million pounds.

But he insisted it was only a little more expensive than the recent G20 summit in Toronto, which only lasted one day, and said: "The government is determined to do all it can be to make the visit a success."

Nichols said he had received about five million pounds, 80 percent of them from private donors, in donations to help cover the visit.

However, the National Secular Society condemned the cost at a time when Britain was slashing spending to cut a record deficit, arguing that if the public finances were that bad, then "we can't afford this papal jamboree".

The visit, which has was announced in March, has caused considerable controversy in Britain, following a series of child abuse scandals.

Firebrand former Northern Ireland leader and Protestant minister Ian Paisley called the invitation "a mistake" and slammed the Catholic Church for its response to child abuse.

Two prominent atheist activists have called for the pope to be arrested for "crimes against humanity".

Outlining the trip in Rome, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said the pope would meet Queen Elizabeth II at Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh and then meet representatives from the worlds of politics, culture and business in London.

An "evening of prayer" would be held in Hyde Park in the capital, while the pope would also preside over the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman, a 19th century theologian, during his visit.

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