Her Majesty the Queen officially welcomed the His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to the UK, and spoke of her memories of her own visits to the Vatican and meeting some of his predecessors. She said:
“Much has changed in the world during the nearly thirty years since Pope John Paul’s visit. In this country, we deeply appreciate the involvement of the Holy See in the dramatic improvement in the situation in Northern Ireland. Elsewhere the fall of totalitarian regimes across central and eastern Europe has allowed greater freedom for hundreds of millions of people. The Holy See continues to have an important role in international issues, in support of peace and development and in addressing common problems like poverty and climate change”.
The Pope thanked the Queen for her hospitality, and extended his own greetings to all the people of UK. He spoke of the force for good throughout Britain’s long history, coming from a “respect for truth and justice, for mercy and charity” that benefits Christians and non-Christians alike. Speaking of the UK’s international relations, he said:
“Looking abroad, the United Kingdom remains 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. Similarly, because their opinions reach such a wide audience, the British media have a graver responsibility than most and a greater opportunity to promote the peace of nations, the integral development of peoples and the spread of authentic human rights. May all Britons continue to live by the values of honesty, respect and fair-mindedness that have won them the esteem and admiration of many”.
The Pope also met Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Foreign Office Minister Henry Bellingham and Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond.
After the State welcome and reception at Holyroodhouse, the Pope travelled through Edinburgh in the Popemobile, watched by thousands of wellwishers. This evening, he will lead an open-air Mass in Bellahouston Park, Glasgow.
The trip is the first official Papal visit to the UK, because the Pope has been invited by the Queen rather than the church. It is the first visit to Britain by a Pontiff since John Paul 11 in 1982, which was a purely pastoral visit.