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Papal visit

September 17, 2010

British police say they have arrested six terror suspects in central London, amid speculation that the arrests could be linked to the visit of Pope Benedict XVI, who is in the British capital on day two of his trip.

Pope Benedict in London
Pope Benedict is on the first papal 'state visit' to BritainImage: AP

London police confirmed that they arrested five men, suspected of preparing a terrorist attack, in an early morning raid on Friday. Another man was arrested about eight hours later.

The police said officers had been searching two businesses and eight homes in the capital since the arrests, but had found no weapons or dangerous materials.

Media reports suggested the arrests were likely linked to the papal visit, an issue on which the police would not comment.

The presence of Pope Benedict XVI in London meant that the British capital was already on high alert before Friday's raids.

"We're totally calm, the pope is happy," Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said when reporters told him about the arrests. "We can say that we're totally confident in the work of the police."

Papal schedule unchanged

The pope attended a service at London's Westminster Abbey on Friday led by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the leader of the world's Anglican Church.

The two church leaders then met at Lambeth Palace, the Anglican archbishop's London residence, for historic talks: No pontiff had visited Lambeth Palace or visited the historic abbey since the foundation of the Church of England when King Henry VIII broke with Rome in 1534.

British people protesting
Some object to Benedict's handling of the sex scandalImage: AP

Benedict also delivered a speech at Westminster Hall - the historic heart of the Houses of Parliament - and addressed some 3,000 young Catholics at an event in southwest London.

Anti-church protests continue

The run-up to the visit was clouded by criticism of the Catholic Church's handling of a child abuse scandal and a furore over the trip's cost: 20 million GBP (37 million euros).

There were protests before Benedict's engagement with young people in Twickenham on Friday, in the southwest of the British capital, with around 20 demonstrators waving banners with slogans saying, "There is no God - get over it!" or "The pope is wrong, put a condom on!"

On his flight to Britain, Benedict made some of his strongest comments yet on the paedophilia controversy, saying revelations of child abuse by priests that have rocked the Catholic Church "were a shock to me."

He added that "the authorities in the Church have not been vigilant enough."

The Church "did not act quickly or firmly enough to take the necessary action" to stop the problem, which involved abuse by priests and Catholic teachers in Ireland, Germany, and a number of other countries around Europe.

While in London, Benedict was expected to meet a group of 10 victims of abuse, either on Friday or Saturday.

First Pope to make 'state visit' to England

On the first day of the pope's visit, he warned of the risk of "aggressive secularism" in Britain and greeted tens of thousands of people at a mass in Glasgow and on the streets of Edinburgh.

The Pope and the Queen
The Queen cordially invited the pope to Britain herselfImage: AP

"The United Kingdom strives to be a modern and multicultural society," Benedict XVI said. "In this challenging enterprise, may it always maintain its respect for those traditional values and cultural expressions that more aggressive forms of secularism no longer value or even tolerate."

The pontiff also met Queen Elizabeth II while in Edinburgh: "I am delighted to welcome you to the UK and particularly to Scotland on your first visit as pope," the Queen said. This is the first papal visit to the UK to be classified as a state visit, because it was Elizabeth II who invited the pontiff, not the church.

Benedict XVI and the queen focused on the positive aspects of relations between predominantly Anglican Britain and the Roman Catholic Church, two bodies which the queen said shared "a common Christian heritage."

On Sunday, Benedict will travel to the central English city of Birmingham for the final day of his visit, where he will preside over the beatification of a 19th century cardinal, John Henry Newman.

Author: Gabriel Borrud, Mark Hallam (AP/AFP)
Editor: Rob Turner