Pope Benedict in London – Day 1
The Holy Father arrived in London on Thursday night and was greeted by the Mayor of London Boris Johnson. He then travelled to the Apostolic Nunciature in Wimbledon.
On Friday morning he travelled to St Mary’s University College, Twickenham, where he began by praying with representatives of the religious of Britain in the College chapel. He then attended “The Big Assembly”, with 3,000 young people from Britain’s Catholic schools and colleges. The Holy Father challenged the young people present to dare to aim to be Saints.
The Pope concluded his visit to St. Mary’s by meeting leaders of other religious faiths in Britain.
During the afternoon it was reported that a potential security threat had been identified and prevented. Nevertheless the Holy Father continued his journey and travelled to Lambeth Palace where he met the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams. Whilst acknowledging the difficulties that exist between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion, Pope Benedict praised the progress which had been made over the last forty years. The Pope reminded all Christians that they have a duty to proclaim the Gospel to a “culture is growing ever more distant from its Christian roots, despite a deep and widespread hunger for spiritual nourishment.” The full texts of both addresses can be found here.
The Holy Father then made the short trip to the Palace of Westminster to deliver his keynote address in Westminster Hall. Standing in the venue of the trial of St. Thomas More, the Pope addressed the assembled members of the British establishment, including all four surviving former Prime Ministers. He saluted the democratic traditions of Britain but warned that without solid ethical principles these are fragile. He lamented the marginalisation of religion, especially Christianity, in society and reminded the audience that “religion is not a problem for legislators to solve, but a vital contributor to the national conversation”. The full text of his address can be found here. Pope Benedict concluded his first day in the capital by attending an ecumenical evensong at Westminster Abbey.