Although neither the Holy See nor the British government have yet officially confirmed a visit by Pope Benedict XVI to Britain in 2010, a statement issued today by Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, head of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, is being interpreted by many as confirmation of the trip.
Archbishop Nichols said the prospect of the visit “fills us with joy” and that the Church of England and Wales was “glad” the Holy Father was considering invitations from both the British government and the Church.
Planning for the first-ever state visit to Britain by a Pope has been going on for some time, but news of the visit was leaked before exact details had been worked out, the Register has learned. The visit will most likely take place next September and also coincide with the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman.
“Here you have the first-ever state visit by a pontiff, coming as a guest of the queen, and probably also to beatify Cardinal Newman,” said a source. “It’s the ultimate rapprochement between Rome and London.”
Sources predict the most poignant part of the trip will be when Benedict becomes the first pope to address both Houses of Parliament in Westminster Hall, the site where St. Thomas More was tried and convicted. The Holy Father, who has been invited to give an address there, is unlikely to refuse: He has long had a personal devotion to the saint who chose to be martyred rather than compromise on the faith. St. Thomas More is also the patron saint of politicians.
Vatican sources believe the Pope will break with current precedent and also preside over the beatification of Cardinal Newman (the task is usually the responsibility of the prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints). The Holy Father has also long been an admirer of the 19th-century theologian, who will be first non-martyred English male to be beatified since the Reformation.
Official confirmation of the visit is expected in the next few days.