Pope will travel to Britain in September
POPE Benedict will travel to Britain in September for the first papal visit to England, Wales and Scotland in more than a quarter of a century.
The North will not be on the Pontiff's itinerary, the first such historic trip since the 1982 visit by the late Pope John Paul I.
However, Irish church sources still hope Pope Benedict will visit the North and attend the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin in 2012, 33 years after Pope John Paul's historic visit to the Republic.
In a speech to bishops from England and Wales, assembled yesterday in Rome, Pope Benedict said he looked forward to witnessing, at first hand, the faith of Catholics in England and Wales during "my forthcoming Apostolic visit to Great Britain".
It was the first time the Pope had publicly confirmed the trip previously announced by Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Although the German Pontiff did not give a date, Church officials said it is expected to take place in September and will include a visit to Edinburgh and Glasgow -- Scotland has its own Catholic bishops conference independent of England and Wales.
Last night Cardinal Sean Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, welcomed the announcement that the Holy Father's visit to the Catholic Church in England and Wales, but omitted to refer to Scotland.
"I wish to convey my best wishes to the bishops, priests and lay faithful of England and Wales on the wonderful news announced today concerning the forthcoming visit of Pope Benedict to our nearest neighbours," said Cardinal Brady.
Nor did he draw attention to the absence of Northern Ireland in the 2010 papal itinerary.
Instead, the cardinal and the other Irish bishops have been summoned to a meeting with the pope in Rome on February 15 and 16 ahead of the publication of the Pope's special Lenten letter on the fall-out from the paedophile scandals.
In his speech to the English and Welsh bishops yesterday, the pope attacked the Westminster parliament's planned Equity Bill, currently being debated in the House of Lords.
He also spoke of the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman, one of the most prominent English converts from Anglicanism to Catholicism. Although no date has been set for the beatification, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, told reporters "it is our fervent hope and expectation" that the pope perform the ceremony during the visit.