Pope Benedict XVI is to come to the UK next year in the first official visit by a pontiff, it was reported today.
Neither the Catholic Church in Britain nor 10 Downing Street were today officially confirming the report, which is believed to have come from British officials travelling with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in New York.
It is thought the trip will be announced shortly by the Vatican.
Mr Brown extended a formal invitation to the Pope to come to Britain during a private audience in February. If confirmed, it would be the first papal trip to the UK since John Paul II’s pastoral visit in 1982.
A spokesman for the Archbishop of Westminster and leader of Catholics in England and Wales, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols, said: “Any announcement about a possible visit by the Holy Father to this country we would expect to come from the Holy See.”
And a Number 10 spokesman added: “There is no official Downing Street confirmation.”
The reports come after the Pope earlier this year cleared the way for the beatification of the Venerable John Henry Newman, to take place in late May or early June next year in the Archdiocese of Birmingham.
Cardinal Newman famously converted from the Church of England to the Roman Catholic Church in the 19th century.
In July, Pope Benedict approved the cure of American Catholic deacon Jack Sullivan from a crippling spinal disease as a miracle.
Mr Sullivan, who visits Britain in November, has spoken of how he had been able to walk and had become completely free of pain after praying to Cardinal Newman in 2001.
The beatification ceremony will bring Cardinal Newman, who died in 1890, a step closer to becoming England’s first non-martyred saint since the Reformation.