Controversy Accompanies Historic Papal Visit To U.K. Pope Benedict XVI arrives in Britain on Thursday -- the first visit by a pope in nearly 30 years and the first papal state visit since King Henry VIII broke with Rome in 1534. The trip comes at a low point in Catholic-Anglican ties and under the weight of the clerical sex abuse crisis.
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Controversy Accompanies Historic Papal Visit To U.K.

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Controversy Accompanies Historic Papal Visit To U.K.

Controversy Accompanies Historic Papal Visit To U.K.

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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports from Rome.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI: Yet, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi is unfazed.

FEDERICO LOMBARDI: (Through Translator) There have always been protests by some groups during papal visits. There will be more groups on this trip, such as atheists and anti-papists, but it's normal in a pluralistic society like Britain's. We're not worried because we believe the media has overblown reality.

POGGIOLI: But a visit to such a pluralistic society is particularly challenging for a pope who has set as his mission the re-evangelization of Europe.

ROBERT MICKENS: His main goal is to try to help make a space in society for religion, for faiths.

POGGIOLO: Robert Mickens is the Vatican correspondent of the British Catholic weekly The Tablet.

MICKENS: It's very clear that he believes that the Catholic Church and Catholics within that church have been too lax in presenting the faith in reasoned, rational, argued terms that can stand up toe-to-toe in the arena of ideas.

POGGIOLI: Vatican analyst Marco Politi says Catholic-Anglican relations are at their lowest point in recent history, as the Vatican tries to woo Anglican conservatives.

MARCO POLITI: So all the issues of modernity, which already in the Catholic Church the pope is fighting, are just the reasons for which he's embracing this traditionalist part of the Anglicans.

POGGIOLI: But Vatican analyst Politi points out that Benedict has always upheld the primacy of Catholicism.

POLITI: That the only real church is the Catholic Church, and that the Protestant churches for him are not real churches but only Christian communities.

POGGIOLI: But The Tablet correspondent Mickens says Britons may be surprised when they see firsthand the man described as God's Rottweiler.

MICKENS: Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Rome.

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