The Archbishops of Canterbury and Conti have welcomed announcements that Pope Benedict XVI will be visiting the United Kingdom in September, saying that the meeting will serve to strengthen ties between the Vatican and other Christian churches in the region.
"The Pope's visit will be an opportunity to cement ties not only between the Holy See and the United Kingdom but also the Roman Catholic Church and other Christian churches in Scotland, England and Wales," said Canterbury prelate Rowan Williams in a statement. "I look forward particularly to welcoming Pope Benedict to Lambeth Palace on behalf of the Church of England."
Archbishop Mario Conti of Glasgow also noted the significance of Benedict's visit as an opportunity to promote greater unity among believers.
"It is perhaps coincidental but maybe providential that this visit comes in a year of anniversaries, many of them relating to the reformation," Conti told the Catholic News Agency (CAN). "The last papal visit brought about a qualitative leap forward in inter-church relations. The Pope noted this in his address to the Scottish Bishops just last month: 'The Church in your country, like many in Northern Europe, has suffered the tragedy of division. It is sobering to recall the great rupture with Scotland's Catholic past that occurred four hundred and fifty years ago. I give thanks to God for the progress that has been made in healing the wounds that were the legacy of that period.'"
"My hopes for the visit are that it might promote a rediscovery of the religious history of Scotland and that it might boost ecumenical relations," he continued. "The Pope's message will be very positive, that is certain. As he said to us when we met him last month: 'All too often Church doctrine is perceived as a series of prohibitions and retrograde positions, whereas the reality is that it is creative and life-giving, and it is directed towards the fullest possible realization of the great potential for good and for happiness that God has implanted within every one of us.'"
The announcement of Benedict's visit was made yesterday by Queen Elizabeth, who said that the Pope will be touring the country from September 16 to 19.
The visit will be the first by the Holy See since Pope John Paul II's pastoral visit in 1982, and will be the first official papal visit to the country.
Benedict's itinerary currently includes a formal reception by Her Majesty The Queen as well as a trip to the West Midlands, where he will beatify the 19th century theologian and scholar Cardinal John Henry Newman.