Pope's visit 'will bring inspiration'

The visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Britain this week will bring "fresh energy and inspiration" to Britain, a leading Catholic leader has claimed.

The Pope is set to arrive on Thursday for his first state visit to the United Kingdom, with thousands expected to see him during his four-day trip to Edinburgh, Glasgow, London and Birmingham.

The Most Rev Vincent Nichols, the leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, said it was an event of "great cultural and historic resonance".

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

It will invite people to focus on the "Christian inheritance that lies at the heart of our culture and traditions", the Archbishop of Westminster said.

"From this source there is much fresh energy and inspiration to be gained. When we forget, minimise or even reject this inheritance, then we risk losing our profound identity and creating a vacuum of values at the heart of our society."

Police are mounting a massive security operation throughout the four-day visit which is expected to lead to demonstrations by humanists, secularists, anti-child abuse groups and gay rights demonstrators.

Andrew Copson, a spokesman for Protest the Pope, a coalition of groups opposing the visit, said the Pope's views on issues such as abortion, condoms and faith schools put him out of step with Britain.

"The policies of the Pope and the state of which he is the head of are wildly out of sync with the beliefs and values of Britain's liberal democracy and of the British people so he can expect a reception that reflects that disconnect," he said.

While organisers admit there will be fewer people at the major open air Masses to be celebrated in Glasgow, Birmingham, as well as the Hyde Park prayer vigil in London compared with those who attended for Pope John Paul in 1982, they blame modern health and safety regulations and security demands.

But in spite of the difficulties, Catholic commentators say they believe the Pope, who will beatify Cardinal John Henry Newman, the 19th century convert, will receive a warm welcome.

The celebrated Popemobile will be used during the visit and will arrive ahead of him.

The Pope will receive a state welcome from the Queen at Holyroodhouse Palace in the Scottish capital before travelling by Popemobile to the official residence of Cardinal Keith O'Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh. He then travels to Glasgow to preside over an open air Mass at Bellahouston Park.

The Pontiff will fly to London on Thursday night for two days in the capital where he will meet schoolchildren and representatives of different faiths at St Mary's University College.

He will meet Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams at Lambeth Palace before travelling by Popemobile to deliver an address at Westminster Hall attended by all four living former prime ministers. Pope Benedict will also participate in a service of evening prayer at Westminster Abbey and celebrate a Mass at Westminster Cathedral.

His stay in London will also include meetings with Prime Minister David Cameron, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and the acting leader of the Opposition Harriet Harman.

He will visit a residential home for older people in Vauxhall, south London, before travelling by Popemobile to a prayer vigil in Hyde Park, London.

The culmination of the visit will be a ticket-only event at Cofton Park, Birmingham, on Sunday September 19 when the Pope will beatify Cardinal John Henry Newman, bringing him a step closer to becoming England's first non-martyred saint since before the Reformation.