Page last updated at 14:45 GMT, Friday, 30 October 2009

Pope invited to visit North East

Pope Benedict XVI
The last UK papal visit was in May 1982

Pope Benedict XVI has been invited to speak at Durham Cathedral when he visits the UK in 2010.

The invitation, from a partnership of Anglicans and Catholics, follows a visit by a Vatican representative to Durham University in March.

It was made by Tom Wright, Bishop of Durham, and is supported by Bishop Seamus Cunningham of the Catholic diocese of Hexham and Newcastle.

If accepted, it would be the first Papal visit to north-east England.

Bishop Wright said: "Durham has in recent years become a major global centre for ecumenical work and the close interlinking of cathedral and university means that Durham is well placed to host an event which is simultaneously academic and ecumenically spiritual."

The North East has a rich Christian heritage. Lindisfarne, or Holy Island, in Northumberland was a base for Christian evangelising in the 7th Century.

Durham Cathedral
Durham Cathedral is a Unesco World Heritage Site

And Wearmouth-Jarrow monastery was home to the influential Benedictine Monk, the Venerable Bede, whose tomb can be found at Durham Cathedral.

The City of Durham MP, Roberta Blackman-Woods said: "The possibility of a papal visit to Durham and to Durham Cathedral, a site of unparalleled beauty, would be of tremendous benefit to the North East.

"I'm sure that the people of Durham would feel great pride in welcoming Pope Benedict and the world's media."

Pope Benedict's UK trip is set to be the first official state visit by a pontiff - John Paul II's visit in May 1982 was on a pastoral basis and did not follow an official invitation by the UK government.

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