Lord Patten of Barnes, Prime Minister David Cameron’s personal representative in charge of government preparations for the Papal Visit, and Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster addressed journalists at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to give an update on Pope Benedict’s September visit to the UK.
Lord Patten said the coalition government was “honoured” and “strongly supportive” of the Holy Father’s visit highlighting areas in which the Church and State worked together:
“First of all, international development is one of the priorities of this government. DfID (the department for development and the reduction of poverty) and the government are international partners of the Catholic Church worldwide, dealing with poverty issues, education and health.
“Secondly, the government sees itself as a partner of all faith groups – including the Catholic Church – in building solid, more resilient communities, dealing with issues of solidarity and social justice.”
Lord Patten looked ahead with particular enthusiasm to the Beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman in Cofton Park, Birmingham:
“It’s splendid that we can welcome the Pope to celebrate the life of one of the great Englishmen of the nineteenth century. Certainly anyone involved with higher education in this country will recognise the extraordinary philosophical role he played in setting out the case for pluralism in education and the role of university.”
Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, talked about the historic nature of Pope Benedict’s visit:
“I think it will be seen in some of the iconic moments and images – the Pope standing side by side with the Queen, the Pope entering Lambeth Palace, the Pope speaking in Westminster Hall – where St Thomas More was condemned to death – the Pope going to Westminster Abbey and praying with the Archbishop of Canterbury at the tomb of St Edward the Confessor, monarch of this land.”
The Archbishop also spoke about a recent meeting with Pope Benedict XVI in Rome.
“He is really profoundly looking forward to these few days. He is enthusiastic but also very aware of the magnitude of this visit. He, so elegantly representing a long tradition of Catholic faith, is coming to engage in a modern world-leading city.”
Archbishop Nichols also offered an insight into Pope Benedict’s commitment to his ministry as the successor of St Peter:
“He is open to all aspects of our human endeavour. His last teaching document, Caritas in Veritate, addressed the financial crisis, education, issues of globalisation and the environment. He does all of these things speaking of the enduring values of Christianity, values that still underpin our society. He approaches this visit as an exercise of meeting, of dialogue and inviting consideration and response.”
The press conference took place at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on Monday, 5 July 2010.
To hear the full audio, click on the mp3 clips embedded on the right hand side of this article.
Visit our updated itinerary with background information on the locations Pope Benedict will visit.
A gallery of images taken at the press conference can be found on our Flickr photostream.