BIRMINGHAM, England – Pope Benedict XVI left Great Britain saying he was struck by the diversity of the nation’s peoples, which can be challenging at times but also is an opportunity for dialogue that can enrich everyone.
At a farewell ceremony Sept. 19 at Birmingham’s International airport, the pope ended a four-day visit to Scotland and England by thanking everyone who had made his trip possible.
The pope said he had met with “representatives of the many communities, cultures, languages and religions that make up British society” and had been able to “discuss matters of common interest, both at home and abroad” with Queen Elizabeth II and with government and cultural leaders.
The meetings, he said, should strengthen Vatican-British relations, “especially in cooperation for international development, in care for the natural environment and in the building of a civil society with a renewed sense of shared values and common purpose.”
Throughout his trip, Pope Benedict urged members of Britain’s religious communities to assert their right to speak publicly about their faith and reminded them of their obligation to live the values that their religions preach.
Thanking British Prime Minister David Cameron for his government’s work to ensure the success of the trip, the pope said his visit obviously was primarily directed at Britain’s Catholics.
The centerpiece of the trip, he said, was the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman, the 19th-century theologian and intellectual.
“With his vast legacy of scholarly and spiritual writings, I am certain that he still has much to teach us about Christian living and witness amid the challenges of today’s world,” the pope said.
Cameron thanked the pope, saying, “You have really challenged the country to sit up and think, and that’s a good thing.”
The pope’s visit produced “incredibly moving four days for our country” and has shown that faith has been and continues to be a vital part of public and private life, Cameron said.