113 days to go until Pope Benedict XVI visits England and Scotland

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The third weekly audio update from the desk of the Papal Visit Co-ordinator, Mgr Andrew Summersgill, looks at Pope Benedict XVI’s address to British society at Westminster Hall.

You can listen to the audio by clicking on the MP3 player below:


What can you update us on this week?

Mgr Andrew Summersgill: This week, my thoughts centred on what the Pope’s going to do in Westminster Hall actually.

When I was driving around London on Saturday (21 May), I noticed that some of the roads were closed around Parliament – that’s because they were rehearsing for the State Opening of Parliament which takes place tomorrow (25 May). And it just crossed my mind that it’s the same group of people – the same team – organising the State Opening of Parliament who will oversee the preparations for Pope Benedict’s address in Westminster Hall.

I’ve got to know them a little bit through some of the initial discussions we’ve been having and they’re very much focussed first on preparing for the State Opening of Parliament and all that goes with it. But once that is completed they’ll be focussed fully on Pope Benedict’s address in Westminster Hall.

That’s going to be quite a splendid occasion really as it will be a gathering of people from across Britain representing all the different strands of British society who will be brought together in order to listen to what Pope Benedict has to say to contemporary society.

So although it’s in Westminster Hall, it’s not addressed solely and exclusively to parliamentarians – in fact, properly, it’s not – it’s the whole of British society coming together.

One of the more significant occasions similar to this, was when Nelson Mandela came and gave a similar address – although I think on that occasion it was to parliamentarians and not the broad breadth of society that will be the case this time.

When will the minute-by-minute, line-by-line version of the itinerary be made available?

Mgr AS: All being well, somewhere between six to eight weeks before Pope Benedict arrives. The Holy See’s normal way of doing these things is to publish, on its own website, the line-by-line itinerary. If people want to go to the Vatican’s website and look at previous Apostolic Journeys you can see lists of where the Pope has been and the itineraries he has followed and they’re quite detailed. They talk about his arrival times at places, how he moves around, the time he spends at places and they’re quite interesting. We would expect to have that detail available somewhere between six and eight weeks before Pope Benedict gets here.