Queen Greets Pope Benedict XVI at Holyrood As State Visit Gets Underway

Daily Record
September 16, 2010

[Full text of the Pope's Holyrood speech]

POPE Benedict XVI has arrived in sun-kissed Scotland for the first papal visit to the UK in 28 years - and praised the country as a 'force for good'.

But he also delivered a warning about "aggressive forms of secularism" when he urged the nation not to lose its traditional values as it "strives to be a modern and multicultural society".

The pontiff was officially welcomed by the Queen at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh for the first papal state visit to the UK.

In a speech at the palace, delivered in English, the Pope spoke of the UK's important place in history.

He said: "Your forefathers' respect for truth and justice, for mercy and charity, come to you from a faith that remains a mighty force for good in your kingdom, to the great benefit of Christians and non-Christians alike."

He cited anti-slave campaigners William Wilberforce and David Livingstone, and women such as Florence Nightingale, as examples of that force for good.

And he praised Britain's fight against Hitler's "atheist extremism", saying that "Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live".

The Pope, who was forced to join the Hitler Youth as a 14-year-old schoolboy, said the UK remained "a key figure politically and economically on the international stage".

"Your Government and people are the shapers of ideas that still have an impact far beyond the British Isles. This places upon them a particular duty to act wisely for the common good."

And, referring to the future, he delivered an apparent warning about the risks to the nation's traditional values.

He said: "Today, the United Kingdom strives to be a modern and multicultural society.

"In this challenging enterprise, may it always maintain its respect for those traditional values and cultural expressions that more aggressive forms of secularism no longer value or even tolerate."

The Queen welcomed him to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, where she gave him a tour of the official residence before an exchange of gifts.

The Pontiff received from the monarch a facsimile edition of 16th century drawings by German artist Hans Holbein the Younger.

The 85 sketches were encased in a white papal binding specially produced by conservation staff at Windsor Castle.

Including a portrait of Sir John More, the pictures are considered among the greatest treasures in the Print Room at Windsor Castle.

The Vatican's gift to the Queen was a copy of the Lorsch Gospels dating from 778 to 820.

Then she had a private meeting with the Pope before the start of an official state reception, where both monarch and pontiff addressed the assembled dignitaries.

Addressing the Pope, the Queen added: "Your Holiness, your presence here today reminds us of our common Christian heritage and of the Christian contribution to the encouragement of world peace, and to the economic and social development of the less prosperous countries of the world.

"We are all aware of the special contribution of the Roman Catholic Church, particularly in its ministry to the poorest and most deprived members of society, its care for the homeless and for the education provided by its extensive network of schools.

"Religion has always been a crucial element in national identity and historical self-consciousness.

"This has made the relationship between the different faiths a fundamental factor in the necessary co-operation within and between nation states.

"It is, therefore, vital to encourage a greater mutual and respectful understanding."

During his flight from Rome to Edinburgh, the Pontiff acknowledged the Catholic Church had failed to act decisively or quickly enough to deal with priests who rape and molest children.

Benedict, at the start of a historic four-day visit to the UK, said he felt "sadness also the church authority was not sufficiently vigilant and not sufficiently quick and decisive to take the necessary measures" to stop the abuse and prevent it from occurring again.

The Pope acknowledged First Minister Alex Salmond and members of the Scottish Parliament.

He said: "As I begin my visit to the United Kingdom in Scotland's historic capital city, I greet in a special way First Minister Salmond and the representatives of the Scottish Parliament.

"Just like the Welsh and Northern Ireland assemblies, may the Scottish Parliament grow to be an expression of the fine traditions and distinct culture of the Scots, and strive to serve their best interests in a spirit of solidarity and concern for the common good."

The Pope paid tribute to the work of Christians in UK history, including Florence Nightingale and John Henry Newman, whose beatification he will celebrate on Sunday.

He described Cardinal Newman as "one of many British Christians of his age whose goodness, eloquence and action were a credit to their countrymen and women".

"These, and many people like them, were inspired by a deep faith born and nurtured in these islands," he said.

The Pope was presented with posies by six local schoolchildren before he left the Palace and made his way along a packed Princes Street.

Thousands lined the route, waving saltire flags and cheering, and a pipe band played as the Popemobile slowly travelled along the road towards Cardinal Keith O'Brien's residence for lunch.

The Pope, wearing a tartan scarf which had been presented to him, waved at the crowd as he passed through.

Organisers' early estimates were that 60,000 people had turned out in Edinburgh.

A Catholic Church source said there had been no prior plans for the Pope to wear the official St Ninian's Day Papal Visit tartan.

He said Cardinal O'Brien had "hidden scarfs in his own cassock" for the Pope in case he had not been allowed to take them inside Holyroodhouse.

The source said: "He hid them and then put them in the Popemobile."

Earlier the Pope had been greeted on his arrival by Apostolic Nuncio Faustino Sainz Munoz. He boarded the plane to escort the Pope off the aircraft, who emerged at 10.34am wearing a white cassock to be greeted by a seven-strong welcoming party.

He was warmly greeted by the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by Lord Patten, Catholic leaders, Britain's ambassador to the Holy See Francis Campbell and airport managing director Kevin Brown.

There was no red carpet due to strong autumnal gusts which blew the Pope's cape over his head - despite Prince Phillip's discreet attempt to prevent it from doing so.

The greeting party then entered a 17-strong convoy of cars flanked by police outriders which was whisked through the airport grounds, on to the A8, towards the city centre at 10.44am.

The Pope and Duke departed for the Palace of Holyroodhouse in separate cars.

Meanwhile in Glasgow tens of thousands of pilgrims have been making their way to Bellahouston Park for tonight's open air mass.

Pop Idol star Michelle McManus was the first big name to take to the stage for the pilgrims, introudced by compere Cathy MacDonald and greeted with a cheers and applause from the busy arena.

Speaking to the crowd in glorious sunshine, Michelle said: "Hands up who said their prayers for a sunny day? Thank you, God!"

The 30-year-old star from Glasgow, who presents STV'sThe Hour, then sang 'Home', written by her cousin Michael Brady, 22, who played the guitar.

She then turned chat show host on stage to interview volunteers from disabled children's charity HCPT about their work in taking kids on trips to Lourdes.

McManus was on stage for 10 minutes before giving way for more hymn practices. She's expected to appear again later to perform for a second song.

Susan Boyle showed no signs of her pre-performance nerves as she wowed a packed Bellahouston Park at the finale of the pre-mass entertainment.

She sang I Dreamed A Dream from Les Miserables - the song which shot her to stardom on X Factor - followed by hymn How Great thou art.

Earlier, speaking to reporters aboard his plane en route to Britain, Benedict said the church's top priority was now helping victims heal and regain their trust in the church.

The pope's comments marked his most thorough admission to date of church failures to deal with the sex abuse scandal, which has exploded anew with revelations in Belgium of hundreds of new victims, at least 13 of whom committed suicide over the years.

Benedict's four-day visit to Britain has been overshadowed by anger over the abuse scandal and marked by indifference in the highly secular country where Catholics are a small minority.

Benedict also said abusive priests must never have access to children, saying they suffered from an illness that mere "goodwill" couldn't cure.

The pope said the victims were the church's top priority now.

He said he expected a warm welcome from Catholics and other believers and "mutual respect and tolerance" among those with anti-Catholic sentiments.

The Pontiff added: "I go forward with much courage and joy."

It is the first papal trip to Britain since Pope John Paul II made a pastoral visit in 1982 following an invitation from the Church.

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