The Pope’s visit to Britain this week will allow the country to gain “fresh energy and inspiration” from its “rich Christian inheritance”, a leading Catholic said today.
Pope Benedict XVI will arrive later this week for the first state visit by a Pontiff to the UK.
Thousands of people are expected to line the routes in an attempt to catch a glimpse of the Pope during his four-day trip to Edinburgh, Glasgow, London and Birmingham.
The Pope is scheduled to celebrate Masses, host a prayer vigil and beatify Cardinal John Henry Newman, the 19th century convert to Roman Catholicism in an open-air Mass in Cofton Park, Birmingham.
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols, the leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, described the visit as an event of “great cultural and historic resonance”.
It will invite people to focus on the “Christian inheritance that lies at the heart of our culture and traditions”, the Archbishop of Westminster said.
“From this source there is much fresh energy and inspiration to be gained,” he wrote.
“When we forget, minimise or even reject this inheritance, then we risk losing our profound identity and creating a vacuum of values at the heart of our society.”
The Pope’s visit will include trips by “Popemobile” which are expected to attract thousands of onlookers.
The visit, beginning on Thursday in Edinburgh, comes 28 years after the six-day pastoral trip by Pope John Paul II to England, Scotland and Wales in 1982.
Pope Benedict will receive a state welcome from the Queen at Holyroodhouse Palace in the Scottish capital before travelling by Popemobile to the official residence of Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh.
The Pope will travel to Glasgow later that day where he is scheduled to preside over a giant open air Mass at Bellahouston Park.
The Pontiff will fly to London on Thursday night to spend two days in the capital where he will meet schoolchildren and representatives of different faiths at St Mary’s University College, Twickenham.
He will meet Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams at Lambeth Palace before travelling by Popemobile to deliver an address at Westminster Hall attended by an audience including all four living former prime ministers.
The Pope will also participate in a service of evening prayer at Westminster Abbey and celebrate a Mass at Westminster Cathedral, the mother church of Catholics in England and Wales.
The Pope’s stay in London will include meetings with Prime Minister David Cameron, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and the acting leader of the Opposition Harriet Harman.
He will visit a residential home for older people in Vauxhall, south London, before travelling by Popemobile to a prayer vigil in Hyde Park, London, currently estimated to be attended by 80,000 people.
The culmination of the visit will be at Cofton Park, Birmingham, on Sunday September 19 when the Pope will personally beatify Cardinal John Henry Newman, bringing him a step closer to becoming England’s first non-martyred saint since before the Reformation.
He is expected to travel by Popemobile along a stretch of the Hagley Road in Birmingham to the Oratory of St Philip Neri in Edgbaston following the beatification Mass.
The UK taxpayer is expected to pay up to £12m (€14.4m) towards the cost of the visit with the Catholic Church contributing up to £10m (€12m).
Protesters opposed to the state visit will stage a march and rally in central London on Saturday (September 18) and a separate demonstration will be held outside St Mary’s University College the day before.