Pope Benedict XVI in Britain: Even Susan Boyle Couldn't Draw Crowd To Mass

Pope makes his first state visit to the U.K. amidst a lackluster response.

September 16, 2010, 5:07 AM

Sept. 16, 2010— -- This evening a relaxed and smiling Pope Benedict XVI celebrated an open air mass with tens of thousands of the faithful in a sunny park in Glasgow.

Second on the bill was Susan Boyle, who fulfilled a lifelong ambition by singing for the Holy Father.

The mass was the highlight of a day marked by wailing bagpipes, a new papal tartan and a royal audience – but smaller crowds than the Vatican had hoped for.

Ticket sales for Papal events in Britain have been sluggish. Organizers had hoped for a crowd of 100,000 this evening.

This is the first visit by a Pope to Britain in nearly 30 years and it is taking place under a cloud of controversy. Some Britons object to the $20 million price tag for the trip. Others plan to protest his conservative stances on condom use, homosexuality and the ordination of women.

And today, victims of pedophile priests took to the streets of Edinburgh to protest the church's handling of the global sex abuse scandal.

Before he even touched down in Britain, the Pope addressed this issue, which is hanging over this visit. This week Belgian investigators detailed widespread abuse by priests in that country. Thirteen victims have committed suicide. Some victims were only two years old. A long-serving bishop has admitted to abusing his own young nephew.

Pope Addresses Sex Abuse Scandal

This morning the Pope went further than ever before in admitting church failures.

"These revelations were a shock for me," the Pope told reporters on board the papal plane en route from Rome. "It is also sad that authorities did not take care of this properly and were not quick enough or strong enough in taking the proper measure."

The Vatican has been reeling for months from the scandal as thousands of victims have spoken out about their abuse.

British victims of abuse are demanding more than just an apology from the Pope. They want money for counseling and they want the Vatican to throw open its files on abuse.

The Papal visit to Britain began in Edinburgh, where Britain's 84-year-old Queen greeted the 83-year-old Pope with a curt handshake and exchange of gifts then an apparently-warm private audience.

"The car you arrived in was very small, wasn't it?" the Queen asked the Pontiff. Later he boarded his armored Mercedes "Popemobile" for a tour of Edinburgh's streets in front of small but enthusiastic crowds.

This morning Brits bristled at comments made by a Papal aide, Cardinal Walter Kasper, who told a German magazine, "Sometimes, when you land at Heathrow, you think you have entered a third world country." Kasper was due to accompany the Pope on this trip but has stayed in Rome, reportedly due to ill health.

Tonight the Pope heads for London for meetings with religious and political leaders, private and public celebrations of mass and a prayer vigil in Hyde Park.

His final stop on this tour will be Birmingham in the English Midlands, where he will beatify a 19th-century cardinal, Henry Newman. Attending will be Jack Sullivan, a 71-year-old American Catholic deacon who claims he prayed to Cardinal Newman and was then cured of crippling pain.

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