Smaller crowds anticipated in UK for papal visit

Smaller crowds than initially expected will attend events scheduled during Pope Benedict XVI`s visit to Britain, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales has said.

Last Updated: Sep 15, 2010, 13:57 PM IST

London: Smaller crowds than initially
expected will attend events scheduled during Pope Benedict XVI`s visit to Britain, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales has said.

Organisers now anticipate around 55,000 worshippers to
gather for the beatification of Cardinal Newman Sunday in
Birmingham, central England, compared to the 80,000 people
originally expected.

Fewer pilgrims are also expected at the open-air mass
at Glasgow`s Bellahouston Park than those who showed up at the
venue for a mass given by Pope John Paul II there in 1982.
This was not because of lack of interest, however, organisers
said.

"I think one of the problems is that quite a lot of
the trees in the park have grown since then, which is a
tendency which trees have, which has altered the sight lines,"
said Lord Chris Patten, who is heading the government`s part
of the visit.

"Quite properly, welcoming as the citizens of Glasgow
are, they don`t want to cut down all their trees," he said.

John Paul II was the first pope ever to set foot on
English soil, and his visit came at the height of his
popularity at the time. Benedict`s visit, starting Thursday,
has been overshadowed by the church`s clerical sex abuse scandal.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols said security concerns and
deliberate decisions by organisers were reasons that the
church isn`t anticipating the "uncountable crowds" Britain
experienced during John Paul II`s visit.
Organisers "decided that we would focus on the quality
_ the visual quality, the spiritual quality, the experience
people would have when they get there," Nichols said.

PTI