UK visit declared a 'spiritual success' by Fr. Lombardi

Behind the crowds who came to see the Pope are "hearts and minds that understand" the Pope's message, said Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi at his daily briefing. Noting Britain's "wonderful reception" of Benedict XVI,  he gauged the U.K.'s response to the four-day visit as "very, very positive."

At one point in the press briefing, held outdoors at Birmingham's Cofton Park on Sunday, the Vatican spokesman showed his personal devotion to the Eucharist, interrupting a comment at mid-sentence immediately upon hearing the bells that signaled the consecration of the bread and wine at the nearby altar. He was silent in front of the cameras and recording devices for more than two minutes.

Speaking of the Holy Father's impression on the U.K., he said that the fact that thousands of people have met him and that many more have seen and heard him are a testament to just "how good the trip has been." The Pope's message about the positive contribution of Catholics and the Christian faith to society have been "received very well," added the spokesman, saying that this was "one of the most important points of his message for society in general here."

He also said that it is "wonderful that all the Catholics feel encouraged ... encouraged also to give a positive witness to their faith in society here."

Fr. Lombardi referred journalists to the Pope's words on the plane over to the U.K. to better describe it. In the air on the way to Edinburgh, he said he was not going to the U.K. for the "success" of the Church, but came instead to "be transparent for Jesus Christ" and promote the service of the Christian faith in the society and the world.

"In a sense," he explained, "I think that if the Pope is happy he's not happy because there are big crowds or other things ... but because we have the clear demonstration that many, many people were listening with profound interest to what the Pope had to say and demonstrated joy in listening to him and to his message.

"I think this is the way in which we can speak of success, it's 'spiritual' success ... not only in crowds (or) impressive moments here, (but) it's what is behind this, that is, 'heart to heart.' There are hearts and minds that understand what the message is."

He also said that it has been a "positive trip" for ecumenism. This, he noted, can be seen in "the clear declaration of the will to go on in the field of theological dialogue and also of practical engagements in society and in the world for peace and so on." The declaration was made by the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury in a joint communique after their Friday afternoon meeting.

Asked to compare it to Pope John Paul II's visit in 1982, he said that Benedict XVI's trip has taken place in a different time and context than his predecessor's. But, he added, a positive comparison is seen in the "wonderful reception that the (two) Popes have been received."

Fr. Lombardi said he has often heard of the great enthusiasm for John Paul II's trip and noted talk that this time "it was going to be different. But," he laughed, "I think that this time it was practically the same thing!"

Regardless of the person, said the spokesman, "if a Pope comes, we see that the people of the United Kingdom are interested, not indifferent ... Catholics in particular, but all people.

And, then, it is very, very positive, this possibility for the Popes to speak and to bring their message, and also I will repeat what I already said yesterday, if there are critics, if there are demonstrations against (the Pope), this is for us and for the Pope, normal, and this is also a positive sign of the freedom of expression in this society.

"We have seen that there were critics, but we have seen more times that there were people who were happy and, in this sense, we find that it was very, very positive, the way in which the Pope and his collaborators have been received here."

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