Pope to hold 'historic' meeting with Archbishop of Canterbury
Pope Benedict XVI's will today hold an "historic" meeting with Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams in a show of unity between the two Churches.
The men will meet privately at Lambeth Palace on the second day of the Pope's tour of the UK, before the only ecumenical service of the state visit, at Westminster Abbey. It will be the first time any pope has been to either venue.
The role of faith in society will be the focus of the Pope's speech at Westminster Hall, shortly before the prayer service.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols, leader of Catholics in England and Wales, told a news conference earlier this week that the Pope would pay tribute to the democratic traditions of British society.
He said: "If his previous comments are to go by, he will also want to explore the role of religious faith in modern democratic societies.
"I think while he fully on the record recognises the importance in modern democratic societies of institutions being secular, he expects secular institutions to have an open and positive attitude towards religious faith."
History could also be made when Rev Dr Jane Hedges, canon steward of Westminster Abbey and a campaigner for women bishops, greets the pontiff as he arrives, as he is not thought to have shaken a clergywoman's hand in public before.
The Very Reverend Dr John Hall, Dean of Westminster, has spoken of his hope for the meeting between the Archbishop and the Pope.
He told churchgoers in a sermon at Westminster Abbey on Sunday: "The visit of the Pope with the Archbishop of Canterbury to Westminster Abbey, here at the heart of the establishment, will be a remarkable and truly historic event.
"It will be a sign of the end of old enmities, that in truth have been dying over the past 50 years."
Protesters against the Pope began gathering today outside the gate of St Mary's in advance of his arrival.
Richard Eason, 45, an accountant from Isleworth, west London, part of the Richmond Coalition Against the State Visit, said: "This Pope is evil in his positions on equality and human rights, he has campaigned against domestic equality laws in the UK, and he has spread hatred in terms of homophobia.
"There is also his position on women and the criminal cover-up of child abuse."
Gareth Evans, 47, a local government officer from Hounslow, west London, and a member of the coalition, described the Pope as "trapped in a medieval time warp".
He said he opposed the Pope's teaching on a range of issues including gays and birth control.
"Even my Catholic friends don't agree with everything the Pope comes out with. This Church has not changed in centuries and probably never will," he said.
"This is not a woolly, fluffy lovely Church. It is a hating Church which is run with a lot of hatred in its backbone."
Today will also see the Pope meet about 4,000 school pupils and young people at St Mary's University College, Twickenham, which will be his first public engagement on English soil.
The Catholic Church will be hoping it is as successful as the first day of the visit in Scotland yesterday, and that the Pope manages to leave behind the controversy that marked the run-up to the visit.
He tackled the issue of the child abuse scandal head-on as he flew into Scotland, telling reporters on board his private plane that the priests in question had not been dealt with decisively or quickly enough.
The trip had been threatened to be overshadowed by comments made by Cardinal Walter Kasper, who pulled out of the visit at the last minute, saying that Britain was similar to a "third world country".
In what is the first ever state visit by a pope, Benedict XVI was officially welcomed by the Queen at the Palace of Holyroodhouse shortly after his arrival in Edinburgh yesterday morning.
He was greeted by crowds who lined Princes Street. Although there were a small number of protesters angry at the Church's handling of the abuse of children by Catholic priests, the majority welcomed the pontiff.
There were scenes of celebration later as the Pope travelled to Bellahouston Park, Glasgow, for an open-air Mass. In what was a hectic schedule for the 83-year-old, a flight to London Heathrow followed before the Pope retired to Wimbledon, south west London, for the night.
A crowd of Catholics from around the country lined the grass verge opposite the Chapel of the Apostolic Nunciature in Wimbledon, south London, where the Pope celebrated mass this morning.
Many arrived as early as 6am to await the Pope's departure, singing, clapping and playing guitar and drums.
Standing beneath a banner reading "Neocatechumenal Communities of Great Britain Welcome the Pope", Mariusz Laskowski, 31, an IT consultant from south east London, waited with his wife and three young children.
He said: "When he comes out, we'll give him a show that we are here and we are with him because I think it's an important day for Great Britain, for him and for us as well."
Another local Catholic, from Surbiton in south west London, said it was a "once in a lifetime chance".
Denise Curran, 39, said: "It's really encouraging to see the way he was received last night.
"Hopefully, the controversy will fade to the background and people will see the positive things."
She added: "I hope he waves, I hope they don't just sneak him out."
The Pope left the residency at 9.55am in a dark blue car with blacked out windows, accompanied by his entourage travelling in a fleet of other vehicles.
They were escorted towards Twickenham by police cars and outriders on motorcycles.
The crowd broke off their chorus of "hallelujah" to cheer ecstatically as the car emerged from the gates.
Patients and medical staff at the neighbouring Parkside Hospital leaned over the balcony to try to catch a glimpse of the pontiff.