All quiet ahead of Pope's visit


All is very calm in Edinburgh this evening with little indication that a major historic even is to take place here tomorrow morning when Pope and Queen meet for the first time as heads of State as well as heads of two Christian denominations – the Catholic Church and the Church of England respectively.

Army regiment bands in full regalia have been rehearsing a march at Holyrood House and a large number of media satellite vans are parked nearby as a small army of journalists gather in an improvised media centre nearby.

In the streets around Holyrood House there are few signs to herald tomorrow’s events.

At 10.30am tomorrow Pope Benedict XVI will begin his four-day visit to Scotland and England when he arrives at the airport here, where he will be greeted by the Duke of Edinburgh.

Then, at 11am, the Pope will meet Queen Elizabeth at Holyrood House.

Both the Catholic primate Cardinal Sean Brady and Church of Ireland primate Archbishop Alan Harper arrived in Edinburgh today to take part in events surrounding the papal visit.

The Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin will attend the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman in Birmingham on Sunday. It was a predecessor of Archbishop Martin’s, Cardinal Paul Cullen, who invited Cardinal Newman to become the Rector of the Catholic University in Dublin in 1851.

Meanwhile the Vatican said today that Cardinal Walter Kasper would not now be accompanying Pope Benedict on this visit.

German born Cardinal Walter Kasper, who until he retired recently was president of the Vatican’s Council for Christian Unity, was reported earlier today as having described Britain as a “Third World country” marked by “a new and aggressive atheism” in an interview with the German magazine Focus.

The Vatican said the cardinal had not intended “any kind of slight” and was referring to the Britain’s multicultural society. It said that he had simply pulled out of the trip to Britain due to illness.

After his meeting with Queen Elizabeth the Pope will travel via popemobile through Edinburgh to Archbishop’s House where Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, will host a private lunch.

Then Pope Benedict will travel Bellahouston Park in Glasgow where, at 4.45 pm, he will celebrate Mass before an estimated 80,000 people. He will then fly to London where he will deliver one of the major addresses of this visit at Westminster Hall on Friday evening.