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Pope extends 'hand of friendship'

Pope Benedict XVI has begun his papal state visit to the UK, saying he is holding out "a hand of friendship" to each British citizen.

After arriving at Edinburgh Airport aboard an Alitalia flight, he was driven to the Palace of Holyroodhouse for an audience with the Queen.

Addressing the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh as he stood alongside them outside the Palace, the pontiff said: Thank you for your gracious invitation to make an official visit to the United Kingdom and for your warm words of greeting on behalf of the British people.

"In thanking Your Majesty, allow me to extend my own greetings to all the people of the United Kingdom and to hold out a hand of friendship to each one.

"It is a great pleasure for me to start my journey by saluting the members of the Royal Family."

Turning to Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, the pontiff added: "Just like the Welsh and Northern Ireland assemblies, may the Scottish Parliament grow to be an expression of the fine traditions and distinct culture of the Scots, and strive to serve their best interests in a spirit of solidarity and concern for the common good."

Following a private audience with the Queen, Benedict boarded his "Popemobile" and embarked on a journey through the streets of Edinburgh.

Thousands of people lined the route, along Princes Street, and waved Saltire flags as the Pope passed.

Later on Thursday, the Pope will take Mass in front of up to 80,000 worshippers in Glasgow's Bellahouston Park.

He will then travel to London to begin the next leg of his visit.


From Belfast Telegraph