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Another papal visit to the UK 'inconceivable' for many years

by Chantalle Edmunds

This week marks ten years since Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the UK.

Benedict spent four days here in 2010 from September 16 to September 19 when he visited to beatify Cardinal John Henry Newman, a nineteenth century English theologian and poet.

However, it seems highly unlikely another papal visit will happen for many years to come, according to leading papal biographer, Austen Ivereigh.

Ivereigh, a biographer of Pope Francis, told Premier he remembers the weeks leading up to Benedict's visit as being very turbulent with a lot of demonstrations but the visit itself: "went off beautifully and calmly and hearts were opened."

After flying firstly to Scotland on September 16, where he was received by the Queen, the following day Benedict appeared at Westminster Hall where he addressed politicians and business leaders.

On the evening of September 17 he took part in a service of Evening Prayer with the Archbishop of Canterbury. 

It was the first papal visit to the UK since 1982. Pope John Paul II's visit in late May of that year included an address at York racecourse when he spoke to nearly two hundred thousand people.

Papal visits to the UK have been historically rare and the coronavirus pandemic will make another visit even less likely for years to come.

Austen Ivereigh told Premier: "If you had asked me before the outbreak of coronavirus, how likely was it that we would have another papal visit soon I would say extremely unlikely and now obviously with COVID, one has to say impossible at least inconceivable certainly at least for the next years."

Meanwhile Pope Francis resumed limited public audiences on September 2nd, six months after halting the practice because of the coronavirus crisis. The public audiences are socially distanced and attendees are masked. 

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