The Holy Father remarked that it was with "great courage and joy" that he traveled to Great Britain on Thursday. Despite the U.K.'s history of anti-Catholicism, the Pope noted that he was sure he would be met with "tolerance."
On the way to Scotland for the first day of his four-day apostolic journey to the U.K., the Holy Father answered several questions posed to him by reporters through Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi.
The issues covered in his traditional "press conference" on papal flights often closely mirror the main points of his overall message on apostolic journeys. Matters ranged from his reception in the U.K. to a loss of trust among Church members for cases of sexual abuse and Cardinal John Henry Newman's relevance today.
Asked first if he was concerned about how the U.K. visit might pan out, considering contrasting voices in the media leading up to the visit, the Holy Father responded immediately, "I must say that I'm not worried."
He recalled his visit to France where he was met by "strong anti-clerical currents with a minimum of faithful" and to the Czech Republic where, he said, atheism is at the highest levels in Europe.
"All western countries," he explained, "each in its own way and according to its own history, has strong anti-clerical or anti-Catholic currents, they also always have a strong sense of faith."
He recalled his warm reception from the Catholic community in those two countries on the previous trips and also said he could feel the "attentiveness" of agnostics to his presence. Agnostics, he explained, are "still in search, they want to know and find the values that take humanity forward ..."
He also recalled the "tolerance with respect" of those who are anti-Catholic. The Pope noted that the "history of anti-Catholicism" in Great Britain is "obvious," but, he added, "its also a country with a great history of tolerance.
"So," he concluded, "I'm sure that a great part will be a positive reception by Catholics and believers in general, attention from those who seek to move forward in this most recent time and mutual respect and tolerance where there is an anti-Catholicism.
"I go forward with great courage and joy."
In a further question, the Holy Father also spoke about the common goal of the Anglican and Catholic Churches. He said they both have the same priority: to spread the message of God.