Two days before the official state visit of Pope Benedict XVI to England and Scotland, British Prime Minister David Cameron offered the Holy Father a “very warm welcome” in a September 14 video message. The Pope's visit, he said, was an event of historic significance not only for Catholics, but for all citizens seeking to work for the common good.
“I would like to offer Pope Benedict a very warm welcome to Britain for this incredibly important and historic visit,” the prime minister stated in the video, which was posted on his own government website and made available at www.thepapalvisit.co.uk.
The “first ever Official Papal Visit to these shores” will be “a great honor for our country,” Cameron acknowledged. “These will be a very special four days not just for our six million Catholics, but for many people of faith right across Britain, and millions more watching around the world.”
The prime minister, who is a member of the Anglican Communion, described the trip as “a unique opportunity to celebrate the enormous contribution that all our faith communities make to our society.” A society shaped by faith, he said, “should be about more than materialism. It should be about shared values and working for the common good.”
“The fellowship and solidarity that unite us,” he said, “are not just Christian values, but British values.”
While acknowledging divisions in British society about the role of religion, Cameron said that the Pope's message had universal importance, to people of all faiths and even the non-religious. He affirmed that “the Pope's broader message can help challenge us to ask searching questions about our society and how we treat ourselves and each other.”
Prime Minister Cameron also emphasized the importance of maintaining a productive relationship between the United Kingdom and the Vatican. “The Holy See can also be a partner for us,” he noted, “with great influence across the world.” He expressed his desire to work with the Vatican on social causes such as poverty, disease, environmental protection and world peace.
“So as we welcome the Papal Delegation,” he concluded, “let us redouble our resolve to work for the common good, both here in Britain, and with our partners abroad.”