A State visit
In 2009 the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown extended a formal invitation to Pope Benedict XVI to visit Britain. The trip was the first official state visit by a pontiff, as that of John Paul II in 1982 was on a pastoral basis and did not follow an official invitation by the UK government.
“At the invitation of Her Majesty The Queen, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI will pay a Papal Visit to the United Kingdom from the 16-19 September 2010. His Holiness will arrive in Edinburgh on Thursday, 16 September and will be received by HM the Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. His Holiness will also visit Glasgow, London and Coventry during the four-day Papal Visit.” Press Release from Buckingham Palace 16/3/2010
The Significance of a State visit
“It is clear that the Holy See is in a unique position to help the international community meet a range of global challenges, such as eradicating poverty, encouraging disarmament, and combating climate change. On these and other issues the United Kingdom and the Holy See share a common vision, hence the relationship that has built up between us is an important and productive one. As we welcome Pope Benedict XVI on his momentous visit to the United Kingdom, we also look forward to developing our understanding and co-operation still further in the period ahead.”
Her Britannic Majesty’s Ambassador to the Holy See (2005-2011) His Excellency Mr Francis Campbell
The Holy See acts and speaks for the whole Catholic Church. Recognised in international law as a sovereign state, headed by the Pope, the Holy See maintains diplomatic relations with 178 states, and is recognised as a permanent observer state at the United Nations.
The Catholic Church is a global institution with over 1.15 billion members; 17.5 percent of the world’s population, including some 10 percent or six million people of the United Kingdom.
The Holy See is one of the world’s oldest organisations, with a continuous history from the period of Emperor Constantine in the 4th century AD.
As guest of Her Majesty Pope Benedict XVI came primarily as a visitor to all the people of the UK, not just those who are Catholics. On more than one occasion he spoke to the nation as a whole.
Joint Communiqué: HM Government and the Papal Delegation 17 September 2010
“Foreign Secretary William Hague hosted a dinner at Lancaster house, London, on 17 September for the Holy See delegation accompanying Pope Benedict XVI on his official visit to the UK, headed by the Cardinal Secretary of State, H.E. Cardinal Bertone. Those present included a number of senior British Government Ministers and senior officials from the Holy See. The discussion covered a range of areas of shared interest between the UK Government and the Holy See.
Her Majesty’s Government and the Holy See share a commitment to bringing an end to poverty and underdevelopment. On the eve of a summit in New York to review progress towards implementing the Millennium Development Goals, they share the conviction that more needs to be done to address the unnecessary suffering caused by hunger, disease and illiteracy. Strong political leadership and respect for the ethos of local communities are necessary in the promotion of the right to life, food, health and development for all.
There was a good exchange of views on a variety of social and economic issues, recognising the role played by faith in the lives of individuals and as part of the fabric of a strong, generous, tolerant society.”