THOUSANDS attended an open-air mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI in Glasgow on the first day of a four-day tour of Britain.
However, smaller than expected crowds greeted Benedict XVI in Scotland, with the 60,000 people who lined his procession through Edinburgh in the Pope-mobile barely a third of the numbers who cheered Pope John Paul II in 1982. The biggest open-air mass of the tour in Glasgow saw around 70,000 of the planned for 100,000 worshippers attend.
The day was not without controversy after the pontiff appeared to associate Nazism and modern atheism in his address to the Queen in Edinburgh. He went on to urge Britain to guard against “aggressive forms of secularism”.
Humanists dismissed the remarks as a “terrible libel” against non-believers after the Pope spoke of “a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society”.
Though he made no acknowledgement of the paedophile cover-up scandals dogging the Catholic Church in his two public addresses in Scotland, the Pontiff told journalists on the plane ferrying him to Edinburgh that: “It is difficult to understand how this perversion of the priestly mission was possible.”
Abuse survivor groups said they would continue to protest the visit, noting that he had held key Vatican roles dealing with abuse allegations since the 1980s.
The Pope’s close aide Cardinal Kasper earlier pulled out of the tour after comparing Britain to a Third World country. The €18 million cost of the state visit to British taxpayers has also provoked heated debate.
The security bill for the Scottish leg will top €1.5m as some 1,600 police officers were mobilised, while a 26 vehicle escort whisked the Pope between the cities.
Pope Benedict praised the Irish Government’s role in helping bring peace to the North as he met Queen Elizabeth in Edinburgh.
He will address political leaders in London today before holding a prayer vigil in Hyde Park tomorrow.
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