After Benedict XVI drew crowds, the country's bishops say they are delighted

The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has declared the Pope’s visit to Britain a success, saying that it has given “new life and hope” to both Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

In a statement released yesterday, the conference said they were “delighted at the success of the recent visit of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI.” 

The statement continued: “The bishops wish to express their sincere appreciation to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for extending the invitation to the Holy Father to make this State Visit”.

Unlike the 1982 visit of John Paul II, which was a purely pastoral journey, the recent visit was the first state visit of the Holy See to the United Kingdom in history.

The Bishops’ Conference expressed “thanks to the countless number of people who came to express their affection and support for His Holiness. Particular tribute must be paid to all those who helped to organise and implement the visit, both nationally and locally.”

“Most specially, the bishops extend their profound gratitude to the Holy Father for the time that he spent among us.”

The statement finished by saying that “There is much to be gained, in many different ways, from further reflection on this visit not only for Catholics but for our wider society too.”

The statement follows praise from many individual bishops.

Bishop Kieran Conry wrote that the visit had been an “unprecedented” success in a letter to parishioners.

Bishop Conry added: “I think that we can feel proud to be Catholic, and hold our heads high again” but warned not to become “triumphalist or complacent.”

Earlier this week Federico Lombardi, of the Vatican Press Office, said that the response in Britain to the visit had been “very, very positive.”