Christianity still strong and active in UK, says Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI

.- The Holy Father used positive language to describe the outcomes of his Apostolic Visit to the U.K. during the general audience. Speaking of the joy and satisfaction he felt during the trip, he noted also that the "Christian heritage is still strong and ever active at every level of social life" in the U.K.

The Pope spent Sept. 16-19 in the U.K. where he stopped in four cities: Edinburgh and Glasgow, Scotland on the first day, London for the next two and Birmingham on the final day for the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman.

The visit, he said, ushered in "a new and important phase in the long-standing relations between the Holy See and Great Britain."

Pope Benedict said he was able to affirm "how the Christian heritage is still strong and ever active at every level of social life. The hearts of the British and their existence are open to the reality of God and there are numerous expressions of religiosity that my visit has put even more in evidence."

Revisiting the major moments of the trip in six different languages during his catechesis, the Pope highlighted standout themes. He praised the "excellent and essential work" of Catholic schools and teachers in the U.K. and noted his "very cordial and fraternal" meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, on Friday. He also recalled the "unprecedented opportunity" he had to address both Houses of the U.K. Parliament on the importance of "a fruitful dialogue between religion and reason."

After the landmark address to Parliament, he crossed the street to Westminster Abbey to preside over an ecumenical celebration with Anglican-head Archbishop Williams and other British Christian leaders. There, he said, he had the "privilege" of being able to pray at the tomb of St. Edward and giving thanks to God for "the many blessings God has bestowed upon our efforts to re-knit the fabric of our Christian fellowship."

Saturday's events saw him at Westminster Cathedral for the votive Mass of the Most Precious Blood of Christ, which he called a "liturgy evocative of the best of the English musical tradition in the celebration of the Roman rite." The Pope also recalled his meetings with the elderly and child safeguarders later that day and the "beautiful vigil of deep prayerfulness and stillness" at London's Hyde Park.

During his Italian-language catechesis he said that the meeting he had with five abuse victims on Saturday afternoon was "very moving and prayerful."

On Sunday, he remembered, it was with "joy" and "deep personal satisfaction" that the Beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman was celebrated. Noting his admiration for the Blessed's life and writings, he said that Newman's "clear-minded search to know and express the truth in charity ... is a wonderful testimony of a pure desire to know and love God in the communion of the Church.

"His is surely an example that can inspire us all," he concluded.

Summarizing the trip in a single line during his Italian-language address, he said, "I had the great joy of speaking to the hearts of British citizens and they spoke to mine ..."

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