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

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The fifth weekly audio update from the desk of the Papal Visit Co-ordinator, Mgr Andrew Summersgill, looks at ongoing preparations, and the timescale of distribution of invitations to the papal events.

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


Monsignor Andrew, what’s the latest news about the organisation of the Papal Visit?

Mgr Andrew Summersgill: Well I’m sure you’re asking me that because there‘s been a lot of comment and discussion about the Papal Visit in the press and the media recently. I suppose what I can say and what I will say is that the Papal Visit planning is carrying on, it is quite a complex organisation to put together. It involves different partners. So it involves the Holy See, it involves the Bishops’ Conference, it involves the local authorities where the Pope will be going, and it involves above all the Government, because the Pope’s coming at the invitation of the Government and specifically at the invitation of The Queen. And that, quite naturally I think, means that we are not in a position to be able to be much more clear than I know people would like us to be. And they want us to be clear because they are interested and they are enthusiastic about the Pope coming. All I can do is to say that yes, we are on track with the planning, and as soon as all the complex elements are in place then we will be trying to give much more clarity than we‘ve been able to up to now.

Could you give us some examples of things that still need to be done?

Mgr AS: Well, lots of things need to be done. As I said, first of all we need to have an agreed itinerary between the Government and the Holy See. And there are plans being made for three quite detailed planning visits that need to take place over the next few weeks, with people coming from the Holy See to look at what is being proposed and to finalise and agree those arrangements. There’s an awful lot of work to be done in terms of the security arrangements, particularly in terms of the traffic management planning that needs to take place around some of the larger gatherings, and also some of the smaller parts of the Visit that involve the Pope. We need to look at ways in which those with reduced mobility can be welcomed to some of those things. And also there are agreements to be entered into with broadcasters, so that as much of the Visit as is possible, all of it really, will be available to be broadcast both here and around the world. And there is also a lot of work going on about the content of the Visit, the settings and liturgies in which Pope Benedict will be welcomed, and in which he will speak with us and meet with us. So there’s a lot going on, there’s a lot has happened, and there’s still plenty more to do.

And finally, people around the country will be wondering how they can participate. What should people do if they hope to attend one of the public events? And when might the dioceses be given invitations for the events and transport information?

Mgr AS: Well the arrangements for those are the same as they always have been. Once we have the detailed and final programme from the Holy See and the Government, then we will do what we have always said we would do which was to allocate places to dioceses, and for dioceses to distribute those invitations around parishes. How those are then worked out through the dioceses is really up to individual dioceses. There are some parts of the programme which are clearly times and places where Pope Benedict will be visible where he will be on his way somewhere, and it’s expected that people would hopefully like to come along and see him. I’m sure they would, even if it doesn’t mean attending something. And when we get to the point of publishing the programme then those will be a little bit more clear than they are at the minute. In terms of time, our intention has always been to try and have those details in place after the planning visits and so to let parishes and dioceses know in around the first half of July, so that’s a couple of months before Pope Benedict will be here.