Pope arrives for first state visit to UK




Pope Benedict XVI flew in to Scotland today to begin the first papal state visit to the UK.

He arrived at Edinburgh Airport aboard Alitalia flight Shepherd 1.

He was being welcomed by the Duke of Edinburgh and will later meet the Queen at the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

It is the first papal trip to Britain since Pope John Paul II made a pastoral visit in 1982 following an invitation from the Church.

Crowds were already lining the streets of Edinburgh this morning, with tens of thousands more expected to turn out for the visit, which includes an open-air mass in Glasgow.

As the plane made its way to the main terminal a Union flag was flown from the right cockpit window and a Vatican flag from the left.

The Airbus 320, which landed well away from the terminal building, was towed in silence for the last few metres.

The Pope's arrival came amid continuing controversy over an interview by a papal aide who compared the UK to a "Third World country''.

German-born Cardinal Walter Kasper, 77, was not in the Pope’s entourage today. Vatican officials attributed his absence to ill health.

He made his remarks during an interview with the German magazine Focus.

He commented on the Godlessness of a section of English society, claiming Britain was facing an “aggressive new atheism” and “Christians were at a disadvantage”.

Asked about the protests expected to greet the Pope’s visit, he remarked on Britain’s multi-cultural inhabitants, telling the magazine that someone landing at Heathrow airport might think they were in a “Third World country” as there was such a variety of faces there.

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland, said he expected the cardinal to say sorry.

Commenting on the interview today, Cardinal O’Brien told BBC Radio Scotland: “That was unfortunate and each and every person’s aides sometimes do make awkward, difficult remarks.

“Sometimes we make awkward, difficult remarks ourselves.

“And simply, if we do that sort of thing we apologise for it, and I’m sure Cardinal Kasper will apologise for any intemperate remarks which he made some time ago.”

The Pope’s trip includes a meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron and a prayer vigil in London’s Hyde Park.

It culminates in a beatification ceremony for Cardinal John Henry Newman in Birmingham on Sunday.

It is the first papal trip to Britain since Pope John Paul II made a pastoral visit in 1982 following an invitation from the Church.

Pope Benedict is the guest of the Queen and Government on this occasion, making it the first state visit by a pontiff.

The invitation has been criticised by a number of groups, including gay and women’s rights organisations.

Pope Benedict XVI, who was elected in 2005, has faced calls to address public concern over the sexual and physical abuse of children by priests.

Last year two reports were published detailing years of mistreatment by priests and nuns in Ireland, prompting an apology from the Vatican.

Victims also came forward in Austria, Switzerland, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany and the US.

Apostolic Nuncio Faustino Sainz Munoz boarded the plane to escort the Pope off the aircraft.

The Pope then emerged from the flight from Rome to be greeted by a seven-strong welcoming party .

Wearing his white cassock, he made his way down the steps on to the tarmac.

A decision was taken not to roll out the red carpet for his arrival because the conditions were deemed too windy for it to remain securely in place.

The Duke of Edinburgh, who wore a dark overcoat for the occasion, was first in line to great the Pontiff warmly. The Pope then shook hands with Cardinal Keith O’Brien, leader of the Scottish Catholic Church.

Later, the official delegation proceeded, amid tight security, to an awaiting motorcade.

The Pope and the Duke departed for the Palace of Holyroodhouse in separate cars.

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