First papal state visit to U.K. met with apathy, protest
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Wednesday, September 15, 2010 7:59AM EDT
Pope Benedict arrives in Britain Thursday for the first papal visit to the nation in 28 years, but organizers are having difficulty selling tickets to appearances and many high profile Britons have signed a letter protesting the visit.
It will be the first-ever state visit to Britain by a pope, an occasion that Prime Minister David Cameron has said is "incredibly important and historic."
But many ordinary Britons don't seem to agree that the pope is deserving of the honour of a state visit, which is expected to cost close to CDN$20 million at a time when the nation is struggling with high debt and unemployment.
The Telegraph newspaper reported that an event originally scheduled for Coventry Airport, which can hold 200,000 people, was scaled back to Cofton Park, Birmingham, with officials saying a maximum of 60,000 can now attend.
Other events across the country were far from sold out, or capacity was being scaled back.
And more than 50 public figures in the U.K., including author Philip Pullman and Stephen Fry, signed a letter to the Guardian newspaper protesting the visit over the pope's stance on birth control, homosexuality and abortion.
CTV's London Bureau Chief Tom Kennedy said England is among the most secular countries the pope has visited during his papacy. That, combined with recent scandals over sexual abuse and Benedict's controversial stance on key issues, has resulted in widespread apathy about the visit.
"Even among Catholics in this country there's a great deal of doubt about some of the teachings and ruling of Pope Benedict who is widely seen in this country as a very conservative pope," Kennedy told CTV's Canada AM.
While Pope John Paul II was welcomed by ecstatic Catholics during his visit in 1982, Benedict is expected to generate less excitement.
"Pope John Paul II was a very charismatic leader, he was very popular even among non-Catholics in this country, and it generated a great deal of excitement," Kennedy said.
"Pope Benedict is a very different leader of the world's Catholics and the perception of him is that he just doesn't generate the kind of excitement and enthusiasm that his predecessor did."