Pope arrives in London

Following a celebratory open-air Mass at Bellahouston Park, Glasgow, attended by about 70,000 people, the Pope has flown to London to continue his state visit.

Arriving late last night, Pope Benedict XVI will today lead an assembly of children, make a speech at Westminster Hall and hold joint prayers with the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Themes are likely to include Catholic education, relations with the Church of England and the role of faith in the UK.

The Church will be hoping for a repeat of a successful first day, which had threatened to be overshadowed by comments made by Cardinal Walter Kasper branding Britain a “third world country”.

Cardinal Kasper subsequently pulled out of trip at the last minute for “health reasons”.

London

Pope Benedict will lead a gathering of nearly 4,000 young people at St Mary’s University College, Twickenham, at an event called The Big Assembly.

For the Vatican the visit is an opportunity to celebrate the work of 2,000 Catholic schools across the UK.

For many, however, it will carry unfortunate connotations of the child abuse scandals hanging over the trip.

The Pope conceded yesterday priests at the centre of the allegations had not been dealt with “decisively or quickly” enough.

Following the assembly the Pope will meet Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams.

In a move designed to illustrate the unity of the two churches, the men will meet privately at Lambeth Palace before the only ecumenical service of the state visit, at Westminster Abbey.

It will be the first time any pope has been to either venue.

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The Pope delighted crowds in Glasgow, blessing Maria Tyszczak

Further Controversy

However, controversy continues to dog the visit, with some atheists reacting angrily to a perceived slight.

In remarks made during his opening address to the Queen at Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, the Pope spoke of “a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society”.

He also urged the UK to guard against “aggressive forms of secularism”.

A statement issued by the British Humanist Association (BHA) said the Pope’s remarks were “surreal”.

It added: “The notion that it was the atheism of Nazis that led to their extremist and hateful views or that it somehow fuels intolerance in Britain today is a terrible libel against those who do not believe in God.”