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Pope's thanks as visit comes to end

The Pope has thanked the British people for the "warmth of your welcome" as his historic four-day state visit to the UK came to an end.

Pope Benedict XVI has used the visit to apologise for the child sex scandal, meeting with abuse victims and acknowledging how the affair "seriously undermines the moral credibility" of the Church. He also attacked what he sees as "aggressive secularism" and the "increasing marginalisation" of religion in society, and railed against the limitations of celebrity, secularism and science.

The Pontiff has attracted huge crowds, addressing more than 50,000 people in Cofton Park in Birmingham and 80,000 in London's Hyde Park, and the trip has been seen by most Catholics as a great success.

Speaking just before leaving the country he said: "Thank you for the warmth of your welcome and for the hospitality that I have enjoyed. During my time with you, I have been able to meet representatives of the many communities, cultures, languages and religions that make up British society.

"The very diversity of modern Britain is a challenge to its Government and people, but it also represents a great opportunity to further intercultural and inter-religious dialogue for the enrichment of the entire community."

Earlier on Sunday, addressing Catholic bishops of England, Scotland and Wales at the Seminary Chapel in Oscott College, Sutton Coldfield, the Pope suggested the Catholic Church in Britain could share the lessons it has learned about child abuse with wider society.

He said: "(A) matter which has received much attention in recent months, and which seriously undermines the moral credibility of Church leaders, is the shameful abuse of children and young people by priests. Your growing awareness of the extent of child abuse in society, its devastating effects and the need to provide proper victim support should serve as an incentive to share the lessons you have learned with the wider community."

On Saturday, the Pope expressed his "deep sorrow and shame" after meeting five clerical sex abuse victims in a private meeting in London.

He also held a special Mass to beatify Cardinal John Henry Newman, the first beatification he has carried out since he was elected Pope in 2005.

The German-born Pontiff, who was forced to join the Hitler Youth as a 14-year-old schoolboy, took the opportunity to mark the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, saying: "For me as one who lived and suffered through the dark days of the Nazi regime in Germany, it is deeply moving to be here with you on this occasion, and to recall how many of your fellow citizens sacrificed their lives, courageously resisting the forces of that evil ideology."


From Belfast Telegraph