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In UK, Pope Beatifies Cardinal John Newman


Pope Benedict wrapped up his four-day visit to Britain in the city of Birmingham, where he led the beatification ceremony of the Victorian theologian Cardinal John Henry Newman.

NPR correspondent Philip Reeves is following the story of the first state visit by a pontiff to Britain. He joins us now. And, Philip, what was the Pope's schedule today?

REEVES: Well, the Pope flew up by helicopter from Wimbledon in London, where he's been staying for the last couple of nights, to the city of Birmingham. And he found there when he arrived that a large crowd had gathered to join him on a cold and damp day. So they were all wrapped up in thick coats and thermal blankets, and the choir even had to wear these plastic macks(ph), see-through macks there against the rain.

This, for the Catholic Church, is perhaps the highlight of this visit, the reason the Pope came to Britain.

HANSEN: Tell us a little bit more about John Henry Newman, the cardinal who is being beatified today.

REEVES: Well, he was a great Victorian theologian. His sermons, in the 19th century, were extremely popular in Britain. He was based at Oxford University, where he had a brilliant academic career. In midlife, though, he converted from Anglicanism to Catholicism at some considerable professional and personal cost to himself. And he has been regarded since then by both Catholics and Anglicans as a leading light, a luminary in the world of theology.

And this event today is the penultimate step, really, on the road toward becoming a saint.

HANSEN: This is the final day of the Pope's historic visit. Overall, how has he been received in Britain?

REEVES: Before he arrived, there were some extremely strongly-worded critical articles in many of the newspapers for a fairly long period, particularly focusing on the child abuse scandal. The tone has changed. The media here at the moment is reporting this in fairly respectful tones overall.

But let's not forget that yesterday we saw here in London the biggest ever demonstration against the Pope in any of his foreign visits - some 10,000 people in the streets of London - protesting against the Catholic Church's position on abortion, on birth control, on the ordination of women priests, but also about the child abuse issue.

And, of course, the Pope on this trip has gone out of his way to address this issue, using particularly strong language yesterday in a mass at Westminster Cathedral, when he described the abuse of children by his own clerics, by Catholic priests, as unspeakable crimes that brought him great shame and sorrow.

HANSEN: Finally, briefly, what happened to the six street cleaners who were held by authorities because they were suspected of planning an attack on the Pope?

REEVES: They have now been released. It seems that what happened was that they were overheard having a casual conversation about attacking the Pope and how good or bad his security was, and that this led to someone reporting it to the police and the police then swooped.

HANSEN: NPR's Philip Reeves. Philip, thank you so much.

REEVES: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.