One of the most important, and certainly most anticipated, international trips by Pope Benedict XVI kicks off today. His state visit to England and Scotland could be marred by protests and antagonism fueled by ignorance, but I personally expect that to be trumped by the words the pope will speak and the witness of the many faithful who will flock to catch a glimpse of him.
What is there to look forward to on this first day?
First there is the welcoming ceremony and the courtesy visit (as it is officially styled) to Queen Elizabeth II at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. At 11:40 (British time) the pope will make his first address during a meeting with state authorities on the grounds of the palace. After lunch, the papal caravan will travel to Glasgow for a Mass at Bellahouston Park, and undoubtedly the pope’s homily there will also deserve much attention. Tonight at 8, the pope will leave Scotland for London.
During his visit, the pope will stay at the Apostolic Nunciature in Wimbledon, London.
What the topics will be during his address and homily is still under wraps, but I think we can expect them to be primarily aimed at the Catholics of Scotland, but also to the people of the UK and to Her Majesty the Queen, of course. This morning’s address will most likely be an introductory talk, and I think Pope Benedict will discuss specific topics during his homily.
It is generally expected that there will also be unscheduled events, one of the most important of which is a meeting between the pope and victims of sexual abuse. He has done that in the United States, Australia and Malta as well, and it is usually not announced and not open to the press because of the private nature of these meetings. The men who met with the pope in Malta were glad with the meeting, so let’s hope the same will be true today.
The relationship between the Church and the Anglican Communion will no doubt also come up, but not today, I expect.
Whatever today will bring, it will be important and interesting, not just for Catholics in the United Kingdom, but for everyone who, for one reason or another, has an interest in the words and actions of the Holy Father.
Follow all the events of the visit via the official live stream.