Pope expresses sadness at no Welsh visit

Pope Benedict at Westminster Cathedral
Image caption The Pope gave his Welsh blessing at Westminster Cathedral

The Pope has spoken of his "deep love" for the Welsh people and his sadness at being unable to visit during his trip to Britain.

In a special address to the people of Wales, broadcast from a mass at Westminster Cathedral in London, the Pope also gave a blessing in Welsh.

He said he was happy to honour the people of Wales and the ancient Christian tradition.

He also blessed a mosaic of St David, the Welsh patron saint.

The pontiff said St David was "one of the great saints of the the sixth century".

"David's preaching was simple yet profound," reflected Pope Benedict.

"His dying words to his monks were: 'be joyful, keep the faith and do the little things'.

He added: "May St David's message, in all its simplicity and richness, continue to resound in Wales today, drawing the hearts of its people to renewed love for Christ and his Church."

The Pope was speaking after he blessed a new mosaic of St David installed in Westminster Cathedral earlier this month.

He also prayed before the statue of Our Lady of the Taper, the Welsh shrine brought from Cardigan to mark the occasion.

The Pope said he hoped the statue, set to return to Cardigan, would be a "lasting reminder" of his "deep love" for the Welsh people and of his "constant closeness" in prayer and in the communion of the Church


He concluded his address: "Bendith Duw ar bobol Cymru! God bless the people of Wales."

The Pope was welcomed with a special address by the Bishop of Wrexham, the Rt Rev Edwin Regan.

He told the pontiff: "Our joy that you are here in Britain is tempered by our keen disappointment that you cannot visit Wales on this occasion.

"But that regret is also a sign of our profound esteem for you.

"We are delighted that you are reaching out to Wales."

Following his address, Pope Benedict briefly met the presiding officer of the Welsh assembly, Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas, and the Welsh Secretary, Cheryl Gillan.

Samantha Walker, 13, and her seven-year-old brother David, from St Dogmaels, near Cardigan, were presented to the Pope during the Mass.

The pair, who wore Welsh national dress, were given rosaries by the Pontiff.

Samantha said: "I was really, really happy, it was unbelievable."

Their mother Rachel Walker said: "I am very, very proud of both of them. It was a wonderful mass - everything, the music and the homily - was wonderful."

Speaking before meeting the pontiff, Mrs Gillan said the Pope's visit had been an opportunity to explore shared interests, on issues such as reducing poverty, and encouraging a more responsible society.

She said it had been a great privilege to represent Wales in meeting the Pope.

"If this encourages a more responsible society, if this helps get people to get in touch with the faith side of life it is not a bad thing," she said.

"It is an historic occasion."