Pope 'to visit UK next year'

Pope Benedict XVI is to come to the UK next year, it was reported today.

Neither the Catholic Church in Britain nor 10 Downing Street were today officially confirming the report, which is believed to have come from British officials travelling with Prime Minister Gordon Brown in New York.

But it is thought the trip will be announced shortly by the Vatican.

Mr Brown extended a formal invitation to the Pope to come to Britain during a private audience in February. If confirmed, it would be the first papal trip to the UK since John Paul II's pastoral visit in 1982.

A spokesman for the Archbishop of Westminster and leader of Catholics in England and Wales, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols, said: "Any announcement about a possible visit by the Holy Father to this country we would expect to come from the Holy See."

And a Number 10 spokesman added: "There is no official Downing Street confirmation."