.- As the Vatican's spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi held a press briefing today on the Pope's upcoming U.K. visit, he explained that there is much more to the Holy Father's schedule than what is mentioned in the official itinerary. The additional details include a welcome by bagpipers in Scotland, a gathering with young people and a possible meeting with sex abuse victims.
Fr. Federico Lombardi held a press conference on Friday in which he highlighted major events, and listed some interesting and, perhaps, lesser known elements to be included in the Pope's Sept. 16-19 journey.
On the first day, next Thursday, the Holy Father will meet Queen Elizabeth II at her summer residence near Edinburgh. Fr. Lombardi confirmed that to mark his arrival and the coinciding celebration of St. Ninian's Day, hundreds of bagpipers will parade and play their instruments in the streets. Mass will be held in Glasgow that evening, after which the Pope will head to the Apostolic Nunciature in London, where he will stay for all three nights.
The following day, Fr. Lombardi said that Benedict XVI's "very intense and very rich" schedule will include ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of the bombing of London by Nazi Germany and a meeting with four former prime ministersâMargaret Thatcher, John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brownâafter a meeting with civil society in Westminster Hall.
Later, although the Pope will not take part, Fr. Lombardi said a dinner will be held so religious, civil and political leaders can meet to speak of matters of "common interest." The conversations will include the themes of climate change, education, disarmament/non-proliferation, health and the future of Europe.
On Saturday, after Mass at Westminster Cathedral in the morning, the Holy Father will meet with young people and Catholic pilgrims from Wales. The recitation of the evening prayer later in Hyde Park is being held by special decree from the local government - normally the city does not allow religious celebrations there. These "vespers," said the spokesman, usher in the start of "the Newman event."
Commenting on the final day of the visit, Fr. Lombardi highlighted that organizers were fortunate to have use of Cofton Park for Cardinal Newman's beatification. It was an "optimal solution" for the question of where to hold the Mass because it's located near Cardinal Newman's grave at Rednal and is also much more aesthetically agreeable for a religious celebration than the Coventry Airport.
Fr. Lombardi said that there will be other encounters, which are not traditionally announced on the schedule. Among possible audiences, he said, could be a meeting with victims of sexual abuse by clergy.