Pope in London on second leg of Britain visit

Friday, September 17, 2010

LONDON - Pope Benedict XVI began the second day of his state visit Friday by meeting thousands of school children in London in an event described as “the big assembly”.

The event, in the London suburb of Twickenham, would “celebrate Catholic education”, organisers said.

Later Friday, the 83-year-old German-born pontiff is scheduled to have a meeting in London with Rowan Williams, who as the Archbishop of Canterbury is the head of the worldwide Anglican Church.

The two church leaders have met many times before, but the get-together at Lambeth Palace, the Archbishop’s London residence, is both symbolic and historically important.

The 13th century palace was, until Henry VIII broke with Rome in 1534, the seat of Catholic church leaders in England.

The pope will later give a keynote speech to political and civic leaders in Westminster Hall in London, the place where Catholic martyr Thomas More was condemned to death in 1535.

Among the guests of honour will be recent British prime ministers, including Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair.

But David Cameron, the current Conservative prime minister, will not be there. He is attending the funeral of his father, Ian, who died during a holiday in France last week.

Last, but not least, the pope and Williams will hold a joint prayer service at Westminster Abbey, marking the first time a pope will have entered the abbey in its 1,000-year history.

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