Scotland makes final touches for Pope's visit

Scotland makes final touches for Pope's visit

Final preparations were being made today ahead of Pope Benedict’s visit to Britain.

The Pope arrives in Edinburgh tomorrow at the start of a four-day trip taking in Glasgow, London and Birmingham.

In the first state visit by a Pope to Britain, he will meet the Queen and Prime Minister David Cameron during his stay.

Tens of thousands of people are expected to attend several scheduled public events, culminating in a beatification ceremony for Cardinal John Henry Newman on Sunday.

Pope Benedict XVI, who is 83, was elected as head of the Catholic Church in 2005.

The visit to Britain has been criticised by a number of groups, including gay rights organisations and Catholic child abuse victims, and demonstrations are expected.

Survivors of abuse by Catholic priests renewed their calls for the Pope to hand over all information on the scandal, ahead of his visit to the UK.

They demanded that Pope Benedict XVI “make amends” for their suffering by going further than offering an apology.

Peter Saunders, survivor and chief executive of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, said: “We need the Pope to say, ’I will hand over all the information I have about abusing priests wherever they are in the world. I will hand it over to the authorities of the countries where these people are being protected’.”

The Pope is widely expected to meet child abuse victims during his four-day visit.

But the survivors at a news conference in central London said they had not heard of anyone being offered a meeting with him.

The survivors were divided on whether they would like to meet the Pope during his visit.

Margaret Kennedy, 57, from Dublin, said she would like to talk to him but did not want a secretive meeting behind closed doors.

She said: “Some survivors do want to meet the Pope and some want to tell him quite strongly how they feel. Some want to engage with the Pope...

“(But) we have been refused three times access to the Pope. This means the only way survivors can meet the Pope is by protesting in the street or behind closed doors, where it’s orchestrated, managed, controlled. Abuse is about control.

“The Pope is saying ’you come to me and you don’t tell anyone what I tell you’.

“It’s secret, secret, secret.”

She demanded “truth, justice and accountability” from the Pope, adding: “We don’t want to hear another apology.”

The survivors also called on the Catholic Church to provide better funding for the support of victims of abuse.

Mr Saunders said: “We need resources. The Catholic Church is the richest organisation in the world. They could make resources available, no strings attached, and I know they would have the backing of the majority of the people who still follow their particular religious faith.”

Ms Kennedy said the Church provides only £2,000 a year in funding for her organisation, Ministry and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors.

She said: “When you think £20m is being spent on this visit, you wonder where that £20m is going.”

She described her own experience of abuse as a child, saying: “I know what it’s like to have a man with a collar around his neck invade you.”

Others sharing their stories included Sue Cox, 63, from Gaydon, Warwickshire, who described herself as a ``recovered Catholic''.

She said: “It took me a long time to recover from the effects of the Catholic Church – not only the abuse by a priest but the cover-ups and silence.

“I was abused when I was 10. I was mortified and afterwards I started to self-harm. I was ashamed and guilty. I thought it was my fault.”

She told how a priest raped her in her bedroom in Lincolnshire while her family was downstairs.

“He was fat, smelly and stunk. My nightie was torn. My mother came in and disturbed him and said I should pray for him and that what happened was part of God’s plan.

“Thereafter I wasn’t allowed to talk about it.”

She dismissed the Church’s apologies and said she felt offended by the Pope’s visit and did not want to meet him.

“They are permanently making apologies. Why the hell would I want the Pope to apologise?

“It would make him feel a damn sight better. He’ll apologise, he’ll cry crocodile tears, he’ll tell everyone how sad he is and how much it hurts him. He needs to be in our shoes.”

She went on: “I don’t think the Pope should meet abuse victims. Why would abuse victims want to be part of this publicity stunt?

“Saying sorry is easy, offensive and inadequate. What he needs to do is make amends.”

Mr Saunders added that if the Pope was a head of state, he should be arrested when he comes to the UK.

He said: “I’m not a lawyer but my understanding is he should probably not be accorded a state visit because he’s head of something which is not really a state.

“But if he was the head of a legitimate state, then I would say that under international law he should probably be arrested, in the same way that we arrested General Pinochet when he was in the country.”

But he warned against tarring all Catholics with the same brush.

He said: “There are millions of Catholics around the world who are good people and are absolutely disgusted by the conduct of the Catholic Church.

“We mustn’t tarnish them all with the same brush, but the rot seems to start at the top.”

The 53-year-old, who was abused as a child by two Catholic priests in Wimbledon, south London, where the Pope will be staying, admitted that the Papal visit would reawaken “a lot of painful memories for a lot of people”.

He said: “This papal visit is something that is deeply personal to me...

“The past lives in me, the past lives in survivors.”

He said he is going back into therapy next week as he tries to deal with the effect of the Papal visit on his own life.

Responding to reports today that more than half the Catholic clergy jailed for child abuse in England and Wales remain in the priesthood, he said the Church lived in “cloud cuckoo land”.

“Whether they are defrocked or laicised, what’s important is these abusers must be monitored and taken care of because they could still be a danger to children,” he said.

David Greenwood, a solicitor who specialises in church sex abuse, called for a compensation scheme for victims in the UK similar to that introduced in Ireland.

He said: “I do see it as a model.”

The first state visit by a Pope to Britain will take in trips to Edinburgh, Glasgow, London and Birmingham and includes a meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron.

Today at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow, the site of an open-air mass tomorrow, engineers were testing the sound system and viewing screens.

The finishing touches were also being made to the giant stage and marble altar from which the Pope will address an estimated 65,000 pilgrims.

A huge cross remained under protective covering until its unveiling tomorrow.

The event is being organised by DF Concerts, which stages Scotland’s biggest music festival, T in the Park, each year.

Arrangements are being made for a performance by an 800-strong choir, 'Britain’s Got Talent' star Susan Boyle, and 'Pop Idol' winner Michelle McManus ahead of the mass.

Hundreds of toilets and food stands have been installed at the site to cater for pilgrims, support staff and an estimated 700 members of the media.

Roads surrounding the park on the city’s southside have been closed to traffic in advance, with train and underground stations geared up to cope with the influx of travellers.

Peter Kearney, spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland, said: “Although all the infrastructure is very similar to what you would see at any big music festival or concert, ultimately the purpose of it is quite different.

“It serves a religious and a sacred purpose. When you strip it all down, this is Catholics gathering together to celebrate mass.

“Having said that, compared to a normal mass, it is scaled up thousands of times.

“But the basic shape of what happens will be the same as what would happen in every Catholic Church, every day of every year.”

The Pope’s visit will begin in Edinburgh with a reception at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen’s official residence in Scotland, where he will meet her, First Minister Alex Salmond and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

He will then be driven in the Popemobile on a 3.5-mile journey through city centre streets to the home of Cardinal Keith O’Brien, leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland.

A state car will later be used to transport the Pope to the Glasgow park where Pope John Paul II addressed thousands in 1982.

The Pope will visit London on Friday and Saturday, when he will meet Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and the Prime Minister, and host a prayer vigil in Hyde Park.

Around 55,000 people are expected to attend the Sunday mass and beatification ceremony at Birmingham’s Cofton Park.

The event will bring 19th-century clergyman Cardinal Newman one step closer to becoming England’s first non-martyred saint since before the Reformation.

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