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Thousands attend Mass in Glasgow

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 16 September 2010

About 70,000 people gathered for mass in Glasgow's Bellahouston Park, on the Pope's first-ever state visit to the UK. Jon Snow was on the scene.

Pope Benedict XVI is in the UK for the first papal state visit (credit: Getty)

Thousands of people cheered and waved yellow and white Vatican flags as a procession of clergy members walked towards the altar.

The Popemobile drove through the crowd, with Pope Benedict XVI blessing them as he went, before stopping to kiss a baby. Hymns were sung and the faithful celebrated Mass together.

The Pope told the assembled thousands: "There are those who now seek to exclude religious belief from public discourse, to privatise it, even to paint it as a threat to liberty and equality. leads us to look upon every person as a sister, or a brother."

The Pope flies to London tonight, and will continue his visit tomorrow. But - in the wake of the child abuse scandal and one of his key cardinals pulling out of the trip on Wednesday - it has not been without controversy.

'Aggressive secularism'

Earlier, the Pope raised eyebrows when he warned against a drive towards a more "aggressive form of secularism" as he arrived in Edinburgh for the four-day visit.

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In his address to the Queen and guests at Holyrood House, the pontiff said the trend towards atheism could undermine Christian values in modern society.

"More aggressive forms of secularism are now tolerated, but let it not exclude the Christian foundation and impede its freedoms," he said.

He also called on all people to unite and work together towards world peace.

The Queen thanked the Pope for the Catholic Church's contribution to helping the poor.

The pope's visit: a debate
Father Christopher Jamison, the papal visit spokesman, sought to clarify what the Pope meant when he spoke of a "more aggressive type of secularism" in Britain.

He told Channel 4 News: "It's important to distinguish between the secularism of the British state which is now an established fact which Catholics and other groups fully respect. But there is a new militant secularism that's grown recently - I'm thinking for example of a group that invaded the pulpit of the Archbishop of Canterbury, no less, on Easter morning - that most sacred day for Christians...that struck me as a perfect example of militant secularism." 

However Andrew Copson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association, told Channel 4 News that the Pope's description of secularism was a "parody" of secularism.

"Secularism is something that allows people of all different religions and non-religious beliefs to have their freedom," he said.

"What the Pope seemed to be complaining about was that equality for people diminished the privilege for Christianity. Protecting privilege by arguing against secularism is just a disingenuous statement to make."

"We are all aware of the special contribution of the Roman Catholic Church, particularly in its ministry to the poorest and most deprived members of society, its care for the homeless and for the education provided by its extensive network of schools," the Queen said.

"This has made the relationship between the different faiths a fundamental factor in the necessary co-operation within and between nation states."

The pontiff shook hands with the Queen in the grounds of the palace before watching military bands perform a rendition of the national anthem, God Save The Queen.

Jon Snow
travelled to the Mass in Glasgow with Catholics from St Aloysius Church, to the north of Glasgow - some of whom joked they were making the trip partly to see Susan Boyle perform.

"I got here by bus and foot, with the congregation of St Aloysius Church in Springburn in the deprived northern part of Glasgow, close to some of the worst blocks of flats I’ve ever seen," he said. "An eclectic mix of some 100 souls from as far away as Kerala in southern India, the Philippines, Nigeria, and, of course Scotland.

"Incredibly friendly and outgoing, this is the kind of jamboree/rock concert atmosphere – been there, got the t shirt."

Meetings with the Pope
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Scotland First Minister Alex Salmond were among those presented to the Pope before he went inside the palace to exchange gifts with the Queen.

The Queen presented the pontiff with 85 drawings by Hans Holbein the Younger, including a print of Sir John More, while the Pope gave the Queen a copy of the Lorsch Gospels dating from 778 to 820.

Thousands of people lined the streets as the papal motorcade travelled through Edinburgh to take the Pope to a private lunch with Cardinal Keith O'Brien.

Earlier, the Duke of Edinburgh and Lord Patten met the Pope as he touched down at Edinburgh airport.

An honour guard by the Royal Regiment of Scotland also formed to welcome the Pope, as the Union and Vatican flags flew from the cockpit windows of the Alitalia airbus.


The Pope arrived in the wake of a row following comments by Cardinal Walter Kasper, a member of the Vatican hierarchy, who told a German magazine that "When you arrive at Heathrow you think at times that you've landed in a third world country."

The cardinal also appeared to condemn "an aggressive new atheism" in the UK, citing the example of a British Airways employee suspended in 2006 for refusing to stop wearing a crucifix.

The Vatican subsequently moved to limit any damage caused by the remarks, saying the cardinal's third world reference was allusion to Britain’s multi-cultural population.

Cardinal Kasper has not accompanied the Pope on his UK visit, for medical reasons, although commentators are suggesting he has been withdrawn to minimise further embarrassment for the pontiff.

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Pope Benedict has a delicate path to tread during his four-day trip to England and Scotland, particularly in regard to Catholic relations with the Church of England. He has flown to spend the night in London this evening, before continuing his visit tomorrow.

Last October the Vatican moved to make it easier for Anglicans disaffected by issues such as the ordination of women priests, to convert to Catholicism.

The Catholic church, in the UK and elsewhere, is also beset by a series of scandals involving the sexual abuse of children by members of the clergy.

Channel 4 News revealed last night that more than half of priests convicted for child abuse and sentenced to more than a year in prison in England and Wales since 2001 remain in the priesthood.

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