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Pope invited to make official UK visit

 Prime Minister Gordon Brown has invited Pope Benedict to visit the UK.

If the Vatican accepts, this would be the first official state visit by a Pope to Britain and could take place as soon as September next year.

Unlike Pope John Paul II's historic visit in 1982, which was 'pastoral' and did not involve going to Downing Street or meeting the Prime Minister, this event would be a full state visit, with the Pope addressing both Houses of Parliament at Westminster.

The Sunday Times reported that it would include the dramatic spectacle of the Pope addressing MPs and peers in Westminster Hall, where Sir Thomas More was condemned to death in 1535 for opposing the Act of Supremacy, which made VIII head of the Church in England. Pope Benedict would also meet the Queen on his visit.

The Holy See has yet officially to accept Brown's invitation, but sources at No 10 say they are hopeful the visit will take place.

A No 10 spokesman said : "The prime minister is obviously very keen and has invited the Pope to visit all parts of the UK. The Pope's spokesman was very positive about the possibility."