Pope Benedict XVI arrived this morning in Edinburgh at the start of the first papal visit to the UK for 28 years.
He met the Queen at Holyrood House and will parade through the city before an open-air Mass in Glasgow.
Tens of thousands of people lined the streets to greet him, although some protests are also planned.
One of the Pope’s aides has pulled out of the trip after reportedly saying arriving at Heathrow airport was like landing in a “Third World country”.
The trip is the first to the UK by a Pontiff since John Paul II in 1982. It is also the first to be designated a state visit because the Pope has been invited by the Queen rather than the church.
Prime Minister David Cameron has said it will be “a very special four days, not just for our six million Catholics, but for many people of faith right across Britain”.
In Edinburgh, Presbyterians, secularists, and other groups are planning to protest against Vatican policies on birth control, gay rights and abortion, but police have said they do not expect large-scale demonstrations.
Meanwhile, one of the Pope’s senior advisers – Cardinal Walter Kasper – will not make the trip after he made remarks about England to a German magazine, including claiming it was gripped with a “new and aggressive atheism”.
Pope Benedict XVI is the head of the biggest Christian denomination in the world, some one billion Roman Catholics, or one in six people. In Britain there are about five million Catholics, or about one in 12 people.
According to the 2001 census, there were 41 million Christians in Great Britain, making up almost three quarters of the population (72%). This group included the Church of England, Church of Scotland, Church in Wales, Catholic, Protestant and all other Christian denominations.
How this 41 million breaks down is harder to work out. The Church of England says about 26 million people have been baptised, the Catholic Church claims just over four million members in England and Wales – and another 695,000 in Scotland. Out of a total population of about 60 million, that means about one in 12 people in Great Britain is Catholic. Source: BBC
Immigration has significantly added to the numbers of practicing Catholics currently filling churches all over the UK.
An estimated 1 million Poles make up the biggest group of recent migrant Catholics, but large numbers have also come from The Philippines, Slovakia, India, South America and various African countries.
Pope’s visit at a glance:
- 16 September: Arrives in Edinburgh; Open-air Mass in Glasgow; Flies to London
- 17 September: Meets Archbishop of Canterbury; Address at Westminster Hall; Service at Westminster Abbey
- 18 September: Mass at Westminster Cathedral; Open-air vigil in Hyde Park
- 19 September: Beatification Mass at Cofton Park Birmingham; Meets bishops of England, Scotland and Wales; Leaves for Rome.