ARRANGEMENTS for Pope Benedict's visit to Britain in September are not going as well as had been expected. Apart from specifically religious events, one of the main events will be his historic address to both Houses of Parliament in Westminster Hall.
This has been set for 17 September which also happens to be the same day as Yon Kippur, the Jewish day of fasting and prayer; it might be difficult for leading Jewish figures to attend the Pope's speech. That is only one of a number of problems that have led government to put Lord (Chris) Patten in charge. Yesterday he said that how Britain handles the Pope's visit will give people overseas a good idea of how well the Olympics will be managed -- although the connection between the two events is not immediately apparent. One obvious difference between the Pope's visit and anything comparable is the very large numbers of people who will want to be able to get close to the Pontiff, as they can for instance in St Peter's Square in Rome. Money is another problem for Lord Patten. The original estimate for the visit was 15 million pounds but did not include security costs; twenty million is now nearer the mark. It is to be hoped that all these and other diificulties will be dealt with efficiently. The last thing anyone wants is a visit to Britain by the Pope that goes wrong in any signifianct way.