David Cameron has offered a “warm welcome” to Pope Benedict XVI and said his visit would be a “great honour” for Britain.
In a video message posted on the No 10 website yesterday, the Prime Minister said: “I would like to offer Pope Benedict a very warm welcome to Britain for this incredibly important and historic visit.
“This is the first ever official papal visit to these shores and it’s a great honour for our country.”
He said the next four days would be “very special” for Britain’s Catholics as well as many more watching worldwide, and that the trip was “a unique opportunity to celebrate the enormous contribution that all our faith communities make to our society”.
“That society should be about more than materialism. It should be about shared values and about working for the common good.”
He said that even if people did not agree with the Pope on everything, they should still accept that his overall message to society was a helpful one.
Mr Cameron said: “Of course, not everyone will agree with everything the Pope says, but that shouldn’t prevent us from acknowledging that the Pope’s broader message can help challenge us to ask searching questions about our society and how we treat ourselves and each other.”
Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, at a press conference held at the Foreign Office, said the death last week of Ian Cameron would be “uppermost” in the Pope’s mind when he meets the Prime Minister.
“He will be praying for the senior Mr Cameron who has died and, of course, for the Prime Minister and his family at their time of grief,” he said.
“That is what a priest does, and that will be first, I am sure, on the agenda of the Pope when he meets the Prime Minister.”