At today's general audience in the Vatican City, Pope Benedict commented on his Sept. 16-19 visit to the United Kingdom, emphasizing his anticipation of the event and expressing his gratitude for the effort that has gone into the preparations.
"I am very much looking forward to my visit to the United Kingdom in a week's time and I send heartfelt greetings to all the people of Great Britain," the Pope read in English on Wednesday.
"I am aware that a vast amount of work has gone into the preparations for the visit, not only by the Catholic community but by the Government, the local authorities in Scotland, London and Birmingham, the communications media and the security services, and I want to say how much I appreciate the efforts that have been made to ensure that the various events planned will be truly joyful celebrations."
"Above all I thank the countless people who have been praying for the success of the visit and for a great outpouring of God's grace upon the Church and the people of your nation," he noted.
Commenting on the beatification ceremony of the Venerable John Henry Newman in Birmingham on Sept. 19, the Holy Father said, "It will be a particular joy for me."
"This truly great Englishman lived an exemplary priestly life and through his extensive writings made a lasting contribution to Church and society both in his native land and in many other parts of the world," the Pontiff added. "It is my hope and prayer that more and more people will benefit from his gentle wisdom and be inspired by his example of integrity and holiness of life."
"I look forward to meeting representatives of the many different religious and cultural traditions that make up the British population, as well as civil and political leaders. I am most grateful to Her Majesty the Queen and to His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury for receiving me, and I look forward to meeting them."
In his concluding remarks, Pope Benedict touched on the limited nature of his visit, saying, "While I regret that there are many places and people I shall not have the opportunity to visit, I want you to know that you are all remembered in my prayers. God bless the people of the United Kingdom!"