Page last updated at 09:41 GMT, Friday, 20 February 2009

Pope is 'considering' visit to UK

Pope Benedict XVI and Gordon Brown
Mr Brown met the Pope on Thursday

Gordon Brown has invited the Pope to visit Britain, after a meeting with the pontiff at the Vatican.

The prime minister - son of a Church of Scotland minister - told Pope Benedict XVI he would be welcomed by millions.

His predecessor John Paul II made a six-day trip to Britain in 1982, which included visits to London, Canterbury, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Cardiff.

Number 10 said the Vatican had welcomed the invitation and it was "under consideration".

Mr Brown visited the Vatican on Thursday and said he had discussed the need to help poor countries during the economic crisis.

The Vatican said they had a "cordial" private conversation about the financial crisis "and the duty to pursue initiatives benefiting the less developed countries".

Mr Brown said he had invited Pope Benedict XVI to visit the UK as soon as he wanted.

"I said that many millions of people would not only welcome his visit but that it would be a great moment for our whole country," he said.

It has been reported Mr Brown suggested a visit could coincide with the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman - a famous British convert to Catholicism, who died in 1890 - expected within the next two years.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told the AFP news agency: "The Holy Father received the invitation from the British prime minister and he welcomed it with great attention.

"We have not yet accepted this invitation, which will be taken into serious consideration."

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