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(Photo: Workmen prepare altar for pope in Glasgow, September 14, 2010/David Moir)
Thousands of seats have yet to be filled for Pope Benedict's public masses in England and Scotland this week, a far cry from the warm welcome his predecessor received nearly 30 years ago.
The pope arrives in Scotland on Thursday on a state visit at a time when the Church is struggling with a global sex-abuse scandal and hostility from one of Europe's most secular nations.
The current pope has had a hard time inspiring the same enthusiasm as charismatic Pope John Paul II did during the first papal visit to Britain in 1982, when hundreds of thousands turned out to see him.
Early starts, strict security, the need to travel in pre-organized groups and the cost of entry have been cited as the reasons why people might not be attending the public events.
(Photo: Cardinal Keith O'Brien displays the papal visit plaid in Edinburgh, Scotland September 9, 2010/David Moir)
Pope Benedict this week makes a challenging trip to Britain -- only the second by a pope in history -- and his welcome in one of Europe's most secular nations will range from polite to indifferent and even hostile.
Coming on the heels of a simmering scandal of sexual abuse of children by priests in several European countries, strained relations with the Anglicans, and discontent over the taxpayer footing part of the bill, he will have his work cut out for him.
from UK News:
By Maria Golovnina
Peaking through the iron gates of the Vatican’s residence in London, four people rallied quietly on a rainy afternoon holding photographs of children they said were abused by Catholics priests around the world.
With a week to go before Pope Benedict’s visit to Britain, the low-key rally drew little press and the activists were about to leave when six police cars swooped on the scene flashing warning lights.
One regular but regularly unannounced feature of papal trips in recent years has been the private meeting with local Catholics who were sexually abused as youths by priests. Journalists only find out about them after they've taken place. Just such a meeting seems to be on the cards during Pope Benedict's visit to Britain next week, but of course it does not appear in his official schedule. Chris Patten, the prime minister's special representative for the papal visit, said as much on Monday in an interview with BBC television (quote at the end of the clip):
"On several previous visits, the pope has met victims of abuse. He has never said he was going to meet them before he did and his meetings have always, for very understandable reasons, been private. I would be surprised if in this visit or any future visit he behaved in any different way."
Pilgrims attending the large public events during Pope Benedict's visit to England and Scotland next month have been issued a long list of do's and don'ts including a ban on musical instruments and steel cutlery.
The list encourages worshipers to bring sunblock, flags and folding chairs for the events in Glasgow, London and Birmingham, but said alcohol, gazebos and lit candles should be left at home because they "could pose a threat."
Pope Benedict isn't visiting Britain until September, but his trip is already making headlines there. Here are our latest reports:
Campaigners planning to stage demonstrations during Pope Benedict's visit to Britain should show restraint, the prime minister's special representative for the papal visit, Chris Patten, said on Monday.
Hanoi Catholics held a ceremony last Friday to welcome the man who is expected to become their new archbishop, but for many on hand – priests and faithful alike – it was a moment of sadness. There were no flowers at the altar of Hanoi’s 124-year-old cathedral welcoming Peter Nguyen Van Nhon, 72, to the role of coadjutor bishop. Outside on the steps, several dozen people brandished banners in protest of what his papal appointment represented.
For all of Irinej Gavrilovic’s 80 years, his Serbian Orthodox Church has kept its distance from the Vatican and the pope, maintaining a division whose roots date back a millennium. But only a few days into the job as the 45th Serbian Orthodox Patriarch, Irinej has several times repeated an invitation to the Roman Catholic pontiff, hoping that both men could celebrate a significant anniversary in 2013.
It was an expression of hope, not only that the churches could overcome past differences, but also that two men already in their 80s could make plans three years into the future.
Could the Pope make a historic visit to commmunist Vietnam later this year? A papal envoy hinted at this on Thursday, as Vietnam and the Vatican are seriously discussing establishing diplomatic ties. "This is my wish," Vatican Undersecretary of State Monsignor Pietro Parolin told reporters when asked if he thought the Pope could visit the Southeast Asian country this year. He added that the question had not been discussed in meetings with the Foreign Ministry and government's religious affairs committee. (Photo: Priest outside a Hanoi court trying Catholics for illegal protests, 8 Dec 2008/stringer)
The papal envoy has been attending the first meeting of a joint working group on improving ties this week in Hanoi. He said the talks had made progress, but establishing ties was a process that will take time.
Cardinal Renato Martino, the papal aide who angered Israel and Jews by comparing Gaza to a "big concentration camp" is no novice at being outspoken or controversial. The southern Italian cardinal speaks his mind, loves to talk and sometimes has had to pay the price. Martino, head of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (effectively its justice minister), has a laundry list of people and governments with whom he has clashed. But that hasn't stopped him. (Photo: Cardinal Martino at the Vatican, 12 April 2005/Tony Gentile)
Perhaps his most famous remark came in December, 2003 when, shortly after U.S. troops captured former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Martino told a news conference at the Vatican that U.S. military were wrong to show video footage of Saddam. "I felt pity to see this man destroyed, (the military) looking at his teeth as if he were a cow. They could have spared us these pictures," he said at the time.