Following Queen Elizabeth II's formal announcement on Tuesday of the Pope's Sept. 16-19 visit to the U.K., numerous Church and political leaders responded with a warm and sincere welcome of the Holy Father. One Scottish archbishop expected Pope Benedict to remind Europe of its Christian roots, while another hoped to see a boost in ecumenical relations.
“This is an historic visit at an important time. The Pope will receive a very warm welcome from Catholics and people of all faiths,” said Rt. Hon. Jim Murphy, the Secretary of State for Scotland, who is the Government Minister leading preparations for the visit.
“As well as providing spiritual leadership to over a billion Catholics around the world, including six million in the UK, the Pope and the Holy See have great influence on global policy in areas such as international development, sustainability and the relationships between religions,” Murphy noted.
Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh and President of the Catholics Bishops’ Conference of Scotland echoed Mr. Murphy, saying, “I am thrilled that the Pope has accepted the UK Government's gracious invitation and I am sure he will receive a heartfelt welcome from Catholics as well as members of other faiths and people of goodwill.”
“A defining feature of Pope Benedict's teaching has been to remind Europe of its Christian roots and culture and to give us guidance on the great moral issues of our day and it is my hope that we all open our hearts to his words,” he said.
Archbishop Mario Conti of Glasgow also welcomed the Holy Father and spoke on what he believes to be the significance of the Papal Visit. “I am delighted that Pope Benedict has confirmed his visit to the UK and especially glad that it will begin in Scotland. I am pleased and honoured to know that the first Mass to be offered on British soil will take place here in Glasgow.”
“It is perhaps coincidental but maybe providential that this visit comes in a year of anniversaries, many of them relating to the reformation,” the prelate noted. “The last papal visit brought about a qualitative leap forward in inter-church relations. The Pope noted this in his address to the Scottish Bishops just last month: 'The Church in your country, like many in Northern Europe, has suffered the tragedy of division. It is sobering to recall the great rupture with Scotland’s Catholic past that occurred four hundred and fifty years ago. I give thanks to God for the progress that has been made in healing the wounds that were the legacy of that period.'”
“My hopes for the visit are that it might promote a rediscovery of the religious history of Scotland and that it might boost ecumenical relations,” Archbishop Conti said. “The Pope’s message will be very positive, that is certain. As he said to us when we met him last month: 'All too often Church doctrine is perceived as a series of prohibitions and retrograde positions, whereas the reality is that it is creative and life-giving, and it is directed towards the fullest possible realization of the great potential for good and for happiness that God has implanted within every one of us.'”
Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster and President of the Catholics Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales also weighed-in, saying, “As Catholics we are delighted to welcome Pope Benedict. We thank Her Majesty The Queen and her government for extending this historic invitation to His Holiness.”
“We are confident that the presence and message of Pope Benedict will encourage everyone to aspire again to a vision of life in our society marked by mutual trust, compassion and truth,” the Westminster archbishop said.
“The great Christian tradition of faith and life, which has so shaped our culture, has so much more to offer,” Archbishop Nichols concluded. “This gentle yet profound teacher of his faith will encourage and strengthen all who receive his words.”