Thousands Turn Out To Welcome Pope In London

housands of devoted Catholics are turning out to see Pope Benedict at his public events in the capital.

The west London suburb of Strawberry Hill near Twickenham has been turned into a riot of colour as schoolchildren and members of the clergy descend on the area.

But the huge security operation surrounding the visit has led to unusual scenes outside a college where the Pope will address thousands of children.

Streams of bemused nuns have been waiting in long queues to go through security scanners at St Mary’s University College.

Their veils are being inspected and rosary beads removed from handbags as they negotiate security.

One monk looked on incredulously as his crucifix was inspected and his habit frisked by police.

The Pope has begun the second day of his official Papal Visit with a private mass in Wimbledon after flying into London last night.

He will travel in the Popemobile to St Mary’s University College, where he will perform a special service for young people in an event to celebrate Catholic education.

Protests have also been planned to coincide with the Pope’s visit to south west London, with humanist groups planning to demonstrate outside the college.

Among those gathered already, some are holding banners reading “Holy Joe Ratzinger”and “From Hitler Youth to Papacy”.

Later the Pontiff will head to central London, where he will address the Houses of Parliament and meet the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.

In the evening Pope Benedict will attend Evensong at Westminster Abbey.

On Thursday, his Holiness was greeted by an estimated 125,000 well-wishers in Edinburgh who lined the streets for a glimpse of the head of the Catholic Church.

Shortly after his arrival in the UK, the Pontiff gave a speech in which he said the UK remained “a key figure politically and economically on the international stage”.

“May it always maintain its respect for those traditional values and cultural expressions that more aggressive forms of secularism no longer value or even tolerate,” he said.

“As we reflect on the sobering lessons of atheist extremism of the 20th century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus a reductive vision of a person and his destiny.”

The Pope also took time on his earlier flight from Rome to speak of his “sadness” over his church’s handling of child abuse scandals. Sky News