At a Saturday afternoon press conference Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi reflected on the progress of the papal visit. He said that Pope Benedict, as he expected, found a very positive attitude among the faithful despite the tone of pre-visit media coverage.
Meeting with international journalists in the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, the Vatican spokesman said that the Pope was "impressed" by the “richness” of the Friday evening liturgy during the ecumenical celebration at Westminster Abbey. Friday afternoon's events, he added, were a "central moment" of the trip.
During the working dinner held between Vatican and Anglican officials and members of the U.K. government on Friday evening, reported Fr. Lombardi, participants had the opportunity to talk about matters of common interest such as poverty, climate change and disarmament.
Discussions took place at round tables on these and other issues. Top members of the Vatican Secretariat of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, were present to weigh in on the "situation of the world today."
Also "familiar and friendly talks" took place between the Pope and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, his Vice Prime Minister Nick Clegg and opposition leader Harriet Harman, respectively, on Saturday morning prior to Mass, he said.
Considering Saturday’s events, he called the morning Mass the "most important" and "solemn" event for London's Catholics. Describing the meeting with youth afterwards as "rich with enthusiasm," he expected the evening prayer vigil at London's Hyde Park to be another encounter in the same vein.
Discussing how the Pope is enduring the rigorous schedule, Fr. Lombardi said that the papal party admires greatly the Pope's "calm(ness) of spirit, the profound serenity of spirit he has" as well as his discipline in keeping a regular schedule of eating, taking a walk and praying even during the trip.
Calling this schedule a "system that functions very well," Fr. Lombardi said that the Holy Father is “aware of his resources and uses them very intelligently."
At the end of the press briefing, Fr. Lombardi said that there is a great positivity to the trip which had not been expected from the tone of the media’s pre-visit coverage.
He noted that prior to the Pope’s trips to France and the Czech Republic there were also reports that people were not ready to listen to the pontiff, but then these reports failed to match reality.
“The reality is that if he comes then there are many people who are ready to listen, there are many people who are happy and so on, and there are also some who do protesting. And why not? They are free to express their mind.
“But, in general, the attitude of the society of the faithful is very positive and I think that this ... is what he was really expecting.”