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British officials welcome papal visit

Sept. 24, 2009 at 4:10 PM

LONDON, Sept. 24 (UPI) -- Both secular and religious officials say they are happy Pope Benedict XVI plans to visit Britain next year.

Benedict will be only the second pope to enter the country since King Henry VIII broke with the Roman Catholic Church 500 years ago. Pope John Paul II traveled to Britain in 1982.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said he is "delighted" by the pope's plans, The Daily Telegraph reported.

"I'm sure I speak on behalf of Anglicans throughout Britain, in assuring him that he would be received with great warmth and joy," he said in a statement.

Queen Elizabeth II, the nominal head of the Church of England, is expected to agree to the trip.

The pope has not announced his plans, but the visit is expected to be in the fall of 2010.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who invited the pope to Britain during a visit to the Vatican in February, and Conservative leader David Cameron said they were "delighted" at the prospect.

The National Secular Society, on the other hand, said it hopes "to make clear to the pope that whatever celebrations the government lays on for him, he is not welcomed here by everyone."

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