.- Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the invitation of Queen Elizabeth II and the episcopal conferences of the United Kingdom to visit in September, according to the spokesman of the Holy See. While the Pope's stop in the house of parliament has been confirmed, the most anticipated moment of the apostolic visit will take place on its final day.
The Holy See's spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi, officially announced the trip in a Monday statement from the press office. This confirms what Pope Benedict had already told the bishops of England and Wales and those of Scotland during their separate "ad Limina" visits to Rome last February.
Pope Benedict's visit will begin in Scotland and last from Sept.16-19. Upon his arrival in Edinburgh on Thursday, he will meet with the Queen at the Royal Palace of Holyrood House, then that evening he will go to Glasgow to celebrate an open-air Mass in Bellahouston Park.
Later he will travel to London by plane where, on Friday Sept. 17, he will begin the day in prayer with representatives of religious congregations. After separate meetings with Catholic school children and religious leaders, he will be joined by a delegation of Catholic bishops in a meeting with an Anglican delegation led by the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.
That afternoon, a much-anticipated encounter will be held in Westminster Hall, the United Kingdom's house of parliament, with members of British society, the Vatican statement confirmed. An ecumenical celebration will be also be held at the nearby Westminster Abbey.
Saturday Sept. 18, the Holy Father will celebrate Mass at Westminster Cathedral, visit a home for the elderly and preside over a prayer vigil in central London's Hyde Park.
On the final day of his visit to the U.K., Pope Benedict XVI will travel to Birmingham by helicopter, to preside over the centerpiece of his visit: the celebration for the beatification rite of Venerable Cardinal John Henry Newman in Cofton Park.
Prior to the Holy Father's departure, he will meet with the bishops of England, Scotland and Wales at Oscott College, the home of the seminary of the Archdiocese of Birmingham.