Live coverage: Pope in the UK

Pope Benedict XVI is conducting a four-day visit to the UK, aimed at improving Anglican and Catholic ties, but his tour

18:30 GMT: Right, that’s it from me for the day. Hope you enjoyed the coverage. Don’t forget to check back for more updates tomorrow, and remember, you can follow this and other world news 24 hours a day by tuning into Al Jazeera English, or online at But I’m guessing you knew that…

18:23 GMT: Susan Boyle is back on stage, and the first day of the Pope’s visit to Britain is over. He will now head to London to spend the night there, ahead of a visit to Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canturbury, scheduled for Friday.    

18:11 GMT:  Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher reports from the mass: “What the pope got here in Glasgow was what we would have expected from the fathful. It’s not just Scots that are here we’ve seen flags from all over Europe. They were able to put the controversy behind them, for a few hours at least.”

18:00 GMT: The mass is over, and the Pope is getting ready to leave the stage. The yellow and white flags of the Vatican, lit by a sinking sun, are being waved as the crowd begins to disperse. Regardless of your views on the Catholic church, it’s a quite stunning scene.

17:53 GMT:  Priests are heading out into the crowds to distribute communion wafers to the congregation. 

17:30 GMT: The Pope uses his homily to warn young Catholics against the “temptations” of money, drugs, sex, pornography and alcohol, saying such vices are “destructive.”

17:19 GMT: The papal mass is now well underway. There is absolute silence amongst the crowd as the Pope speaks, a marked contrast the cheering crowds that marked his arrival. He is currently giving personal blessings to members of the congregation.

16:31 GMT: The Pope has appeared on the stage to celebrate mass. The crowd are in full voice, singing hymns.   

16:11 GMT: The Popemobile has stopped, and the Pope has kissed a baby through the window. The pause is short,  and before long the bullet-proof window is closed and the vehicle is underway again.

16:05 GMT: Amid the controversy, many people are excited by the visit of the Pope- but nine year old Anton McManus, who was diagnosed with cancer when he was four, has a special reason to look forward to the Bellahouston Park mass. He will receive a personal blessing from the Pope after writing to the pontiff asking him to “help keep the cancer away.”

15:58 GMT: The Pope has arrived in Bellahouston Park. He is being driven to the stage in his specially adapted car- dubbed the Popemobile- flanked by a group of eagle-eyed bodyguards. The crowd are clearly excited as the hymns are sung and the mass approaches.

15:42 GMT: Hello, its Andrew Wander taking over from my colleague Jacqueline Head, who has finished for the day. Tough act to follow…  

14:55 GMT: Although there’s been a lot of talk of it – one thing we haven’t yet seen much of is the protests against the pope’s visit.

We’ve caught a glimpse of Ian Paisley, the former Northern Ireland first minister, holding a small Protestant rally against the visit, but perhaps the main demonstrations are yet to come.

14:40 GMT: The pope is about to finish his private lunch with the Archbishop of St Andrews and then head to Bellahouston Park in Glasgow, where he will lead a mass attended by an estimated 70,000 people.

Currently Susan Boyle – a singer made famous on a popular British talent television show – is performing on the stage.

Some 35,000 tickets are said to go unfilled at the mass – so far it looks as though there is a large empty area. However that may change once the pope’s arrival time nears.


Pic courtesy AFP

13:49 GMT: Victims of clerical abuse have criticised comments by the pope this morning, when he said church leaders were not vigilant enough in response to the sex abuse scandal.

Joell Casteix of the US-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said Benedict’s comments were “hurtful, not helpful”.

“It’s disingenuous to say church officials have been slow and insufficiently vigilant in dealing with clergy sex crimes and cover ups.

“On the contrary, they’ve been prompt and vigilant, but in concealing, not preventing, these horrors.

“The authorities in the church have not been vigilant enough”.

13:21 GMT: Greg Watts, a Catholic writer and author based in London has been speaking to Al Jazeera about Pope Benedict’s visit.

Referring to the pope’s earlier comments warning against “aggressive secularism”, he said it appeared the religious leader was standing up for all faiths, not just Catholicism.

“I think what he’s doing is standing up for all religions in the world, and this secularism he sees as a real danger.

“In some ways – in Britain – Islam has been attacked, Christianity has been attacked – and the pope is standing up for all faiths.”

13:06 GMT: According to Alan Fisher, our man following the Pope, crowds are already starting to gather in Bellahouston Park, Glasgow, where the pope is due to hold a mass later in the day. He’s sent this picture of the park. Follow him for more updates at @AlanFisher

12:55 GMT: Some eagle-eyed viewers may have noticed the pope wearing a tartan scarf as he travels around the streets of Edinburgh, followed by a band of pipers.

The garment and the ceremony isn’t simply a nod to the country he’s currently visiting – but a celebration of St Ninian’s day – an annual event held in honour of the man who brought Christianity to Scotland in around 397AD.

The pope’s scarf – called St Ninian’s tartan, has been specially designed in his honour, and according to reports was given to him from Cardinal O’Brien, head of the Catholic Church in Scotland, who also previously announced the special parade of pipers and historical figures that accompanied the pope.


Pic courtesy AFP

12:07 GMT: Crowds are lining the streets of Edinburgh as people aim to catch a glimpse of the Pope – who is being trailed by a marching band. Many commentators have speculated that Benedict would not inspire the same turnout made when Pope John Paul II visited the country in 1982. But it seems thousands of supporters have turned out.

Alan Fisher, our correspondent, said attendances would still be down compared with John Paul II  “not least because when the pope came in 1982 it was the summer, here we’re moving into the autumn.

“There’s also the situation with dogma – the church’s position on homosexuality, abortion and particularly the use of condoms in poorer countries to prevent HIV infection.

“There is the position too that the pope’s personality is just different from John Paul II – he’s not seen as being as charismatic … and so he doesn’t quite engender the same feelings of warmth.”

11:48 GMT: Alan Fisher who is reporting from Edinburgh, has said that while a lot of attention has been given to the promised protests surrounding the pope’s visit, “thousands of people still want to see the Pope here”.

“Tens of thousands of people are coming out over the next four days to see the leader of the Roman Catholic Church to hear what he’s got to say. And they hope that he will give them a message of hope tto continue their faith and that the church is going in the right direction.”

11:23 GMT: The Pope is on the move again  – already this morning he’s travelled from Rome to Scotland, met the Queen and given a speech at the Holyrood Palace.  Now he’s touring the streets of Edinburgh in his Popemobile, before going to meet Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the head of the Catholic Church in Scotland.


Pic courtesy AFP

11:08 GMT: There’s all kinds of Pope memorabilia going on sale here in the UK as vendors hope to cash in on the papal visit. They include the standard kind of merchandise – souvenir T-shirts, crosses, key-rings and magnets – to the more bizarre Pope-on-a-rope soaps.

Some have also made their own Pope-related fashion as a way of making a statement about the visit. Apparently “Pope Nope” T-shirts have been spotted around London, while others are wearing “Team Benedict” and “Vatican All Stars” hooded tops.

10:55 GMT: Benedict XVI has urged Britain to maintain respect for religious traditions and warned against “aggressive forms of secularism” in his first speech in the country.

“Today, the United Kingdom strives to be a modern and multicultural society,” he said at the Palace of Holyrood house in Edinburgh.

“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.

“Let it not obscure the Christian foundation that underpins its freedoms.”

His comments come after polls showed that many Catholics had lost trust in the church as a result of the sex abuse scandal.

Pic courtesy AFP

10:19 GMT: The Pope has met with the Queen, who is one-year older than Benedict at 84. We’ll get some pictures of the pair up soon.

Meanwhile, some reports have emerged that the pontiff criticised church leaders as “insufficiently vigilant” during decade of sexual abuse, in comments he made to journalists on board his plane.

According to the Reuters news agency, the pope said he was shocked by what he called “a perversion” of the priesthood.

10:03 GMT: As the Pope travels in a motorcade towards Holyrood Palace, where he will meet with Queen Elizabeth II, let’s look at some interesting facts about his visit, courtesy of Al Jazeera’s very own Vatican expert, Claudio Lavanga.

– Benedict’s trip is the first state visit by a pope since since King Henry VIII broke with the church of Rome in 1534.

– John Paul II visited the country in 1982, but the Vatican said that was a pastoral trip, not a state visit.

– It’s also the first time Benedict will celebrate a beatification under his own rules popes don’t beatify, only canonise (which is the process of declaring someone a saint). The exception to his own rule has been seen as controversial.

09:46 GMT:  As expected there’s been a flurry of activity on Twitter over the Pope’s arrival. Many are asking for their money back – in response to some reports that the trip could be costing as much as $31m. Others have been more positive, questioning why there is such a backlash against the head of the Catholic Church.

Our own correspondent Alan Fisher, has also entered the online fray, tweeting:

Pope touches down in Scotland at the beginning of his #papal visit. He didn’t kiss the ground – too much of a risk in a 3rd world country?

You can follow his updates at @AlanFisher


09:38 GMT:  The pope has been greeted by the Duke of Edinburgh and a group of priests as he disembarked from his plane.

Meanwhile, Patrick Walsh, co-founder of the group ‘Irish Survivors of Child Abuse, has been speaking to Al Jazeera.

Despite his experiences he has defended the response of the Vatican to the child sex abuse scandal, saying the pope has “introduced a fast track method to get rid of abusive priests”.

“I can tell you now in a couple weeks time the pope is taking a high powered delegation to Ireland to examine how on earth the Antichrist managed to get into the Catholic church and run amok for so many years.”

09:17 GMT: The Pope, on board an ordinary Alitalia Airbus A320 chartered for the flight has landed at Edinburgh airport. Interestingly the pontiff does not have his own aircraft for foreign travel.

08:48 GMT: Pope Benedict has set off from Rome and is expected to land in Edinburgh, Scotland, imminently.

His already controversial trip made headlines just hours before the entourage departed, after one of the pope’s senior advisers compared Britain to a “third-world country”. Needless to say, that aide is no longer travelling to the UK.

There’s also anger about the visit’s cost to taxpayers – with many saying the $18m being spent would be better off going towards schools and hospitals.

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