Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Britain yesterday at the start of an historic four-day state visit, after admitting the Catholic Church had let its guard down on pedophilia.
The 83-year-old was greeted on the tarmac of Edinburgh Airport by Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, the Duke of Edinburgh Prince Philip, at the onset of a trip that has been clouded by the abuse scandal involving priests and comments by a top Vatican official who likened Britain to a “Third World country.”
The pope smiled broadly as he stepped off his plane in bright sunshine, becoming the first pope to pay a state visit to Britain since King Henry VIII broke with the Catholic church in Rome in 1534 and founded the Church of England.
During the flight to Edinburgh, the pope told journalists on board his plane that the Catholic Church “has not been vigilant enough” on the issue of priests who abused children and failed to act quickly enough on the issue.
The revelations of child abuse that have shaken the Catholic Church “were a shock to me,” he said, shortly before landing at Edinburgh airport, where he was greeted on the tarmac by Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, the Duke of Edinburgh Prince Philip.
The pope was also greeted by the government’s representative who has organized the trip, former governor of Hong Kong Chris Patten, as well as cardinals before traveling into Edinburgh in a motorcade.
The only other visit to Britain by a pope was made by John Paul II on a pastoral visit in 1982.