Vatican details pope`s September visit to Britain

Vatican seeks to clear up controversy the trip has sparked in some quarters.

Updated: Aug 19, 2010, 11:23 AM IST

Vatican City: The Vatican on Wednesday unveiled the official programme of Pope Benedict XVI`s planned September visit to Britain and sought to clear up the controversy the trip has sparked in some quarters.

"I have read and heard the totally unfounded objections," said Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi regarding the disclosure that worshippers would be asked to pay a "pilgrim contribution" of up to USD 40 to attend papal events.

"All this is completely false... the pope goes to a country because he is invited by the highest authorities of the state (the Queen and the government) and by the local Church," Lombardi said on Radio Vatican.

"Consequently, the costs and logistical constraints are naturally at the expense of the one inviting him," he said.

"It is not the pope who organises a trip to England all by himself."

The 83-year-old pontiff will begin on September 16 in the Scottish capital Edinburgh, where Queen Elizabeth II, titular head of the world`s Anglicans, will greet him at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Vatican said in a statement of a trip that will also take him to London and Birmingham.

Benedict XVI will be only the second pope to visit Britain since King Henry VIII split with Rome in 1534, leading to the formation of the Anglican Church. His predecessor John Paul II drew huge crowds in 1982.

The visit`s high point will be the beatification of 19th-century theologian Cardinal John Henry Newman, an Anglican convert to Catholicism, on the last day of the four-day tour.