VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI takes his campaign to revive Christianity in an increasingly secular Europe to Britain on Thursday. He faces a daunting task in a nation largely at odds with his policies and where disgust over the church sex abuse scandal runs high.
Add to that centuries of anti-Catholic sentiment, recent tensions with the Anglican church and Benedict's plan to beatify one of the most famous Anglican converts to Catholicism, and the four-day trip is shaping up as one of his most delicate to date.
For a gaffe-prone papacy whose handling of the abuse scandal has been problematic at best, the potential for pitfalls looms large. Just hours before the visit, one of the pope's senior aides pulled out of the trip after he reportedly told a magazine that modern Britain resembles a "Third World country" with an "aggressive atheism."
The British media outrage that ensued did not bode well. Already, organizers had scaled back expectations for the turnout, saying Tuesday that only 55,000 are expected at Benedict's main event, down from 80,000.