Cabinet Minister predicts that the Pope will come to England "at the end of next year or in early 1982".
by Christopher Howse ARRANGEMENTS for a visit to Britain by the Pope were discussed in a special audience given by Pope John Paul in Rome to Mr Norman St John-Stevas, before the Papal trip to France.
It now seems likely that the Pope will come to this country late next year or early in 1982.
On his return from Rome Mr St John-Stevas is reported to have said that the Pope told him that he would very much like to come to England. The report said that Mr St JohnStevas said: "It will probably be towards the end of next year or in early 1982."
Mr St John-Stevas is the only Catholic member of the Cabinet.
He added: "I have discussed the visit with the Queen, as Head of the established Church, and i know she is very keen that he should come. It would certainly be wonderful for all of us."
When the Pope comes, he will stay at the Apostolic Delegation in Wimbledon. It was through the Delegation that Mr St JohnStevas's audience was arranged, but they remained characteristically non-committal this week when questioned on plans for the Pope's visit.
Mr St John-Stevas said he hoped a visit to Walsingham could be included in his programme. This would fit in with the Pope's message to the National Pastoral Congress at Liverpool last month, when he said: "Together let us look forward to the day when — perhaps in your own dear country, rejoicing in the title of Mary's dowry — we may sing together the hymn composed for
Picking the moment for a visit — page 5
Walsingham is the national shrine of England, and a prominent feature of Pope John Paul's international tours has been his eagerness to visit shrines dedicated to Our Lady. These have included Czestochowa, Guadelupe, Knock and Rue du Bac.
Walsingham was the scene of an unprecendented pilgrimage
last month by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Mr St John-Stevas said that the Pope had enjoyed his meeting with Dr Runcie in Africa. More recently, Pope John Paul announced that he sees the drive for unity as a special mission given to him by the Holy Spirit.
Another element in the Pope's forthcoming .visit will be a meeting with the Queen. It had been claimed that this would present insurmountable problems, but Mexico, Poland and France are all officially atheistic states, and it has been forcefully denied by both the Foreign Office and Church diplomats that the lack of ambassadorial status for the Holy see's representative in Britain would be an obstacle.
Other likely places for the Pope to visit will be Liverpool, where Archbishop Worlock has extended a firm invitation, and the Carmelite shrine of Aylesford, in Kent, where Our Lady appeared to St Simon Stock and gave him the scapular. Pope John Paul went to the Carmelite convent at Lisieux and praised the contemplative life during his French tour.
Church leaders in this country have consistently refused to be drawn on wilether the Pope is intending to visit Britain soon.
When Cardinal Hume was asked last month about a possible trip, he replied jokingly that he thought it was probable that the Pope would come here "some time in the next 20 years."