Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Crowds gather to welcome Pope to Edinburgh

Media captionThousands line the streets of Edinburgh to see Pope Benedict

An estimated 125,000 well-wishers have lined the streets of Edinburgh to catch a glimpse of the Pope at the start of his state visit to the UK.

Hundreds of school pupils took part in a St Ninian's Day parade down Princes Street to welcome Pope Benedict XVI.

Following the parade, the Pope made his way along the capital's main thoroughfare in his Popemobile.

The visit is the first by a pontiff since Pope John Paul II came to Scotland in 1982.

Lothian and Borders Police confirmed about 125,000 people had watched the procession along Princes Street towards Morningside.

The St Ninian's Day Parade celebrated the first man to be named a saint in Scotland in nearly 1,600 years.

Children were invited from the 14 schools across Scotland named after the saint, including Catholic, Episcopalian and non-denominational schools.

The parade was headed by hundreds of pipers and dozens of people dressed as historical characters.

Earlier there was a sigh of disappointment from the crowd on Pope Benedict's arrival in Edinburgh, when they saw that the cavalcade of vehicles all had blacked-out windows and that they were unable to see him.

However, there was a chance to get a glimpse of the Pope when he passed along the parade route in the Popemobile after meeting the Queen at Holyroodhouse.

Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie laughed off remarks made by the Duke of Edinburgh at the papal reception, who asked if she was wearing tartan knickers.

He posed the question after noticing the Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray was wearing a St Ninian's tartan tie.

Image caption Ellie and Lavina-Rose Devine turned out to see the Pope with friend Louise Ford

The Tory MSP said that even if she had been wearing tartan underwear, she could not possibly exhibit them.

She later said it was good to see that the Royals had a sense of humour.

Cardinal Keith O'Brien travelled with the Pope in the Popemobile to Cardinal O'Brien's home where he had lunch, followed by prayers and a rest period.

Cardinal O'Brien said: "It has indeed been very, very exciting. The Pope seems in excellent form, as did Her Majesty, and of course they both appear to be extremely happy in one another's company.

"The Pope is a wonderful, warm, friendly character, radiating a certain calm and a certain peace from him, and the respect which was being shown him, and just the love that was radiating to him from the people who were lining along Princes Street."

The Devine family from Fernieside in Edinburgh, who had turned out for the last papal visit, were among those who gathered on Princes Street.

Patrick Devine, 40, was in the crowd with his parents Pat and Liz, both aged 65, and youngsters Lavina-Rose, eight, Ellie, seven, and two-year-old Logan.

Patrick said: "We have come because we were here in 1982. He is the head of the Catholic Church, this is a historic visit.

"There is not as big a turn-out as there was in 1982, but it is good for the bairns. It is great for the whole of Scotland.

"Benedict is not as popular as John Paul - he was the working class Pope - but give him a chance."

Sister Francis, who travelled to the city with members of the Carmelite Monastery in Fife, said the visit would help bring faiths together.

"I'm very excited and very privileged to be able to come and welcome and support him," she added.

"I think it will be a blessing, whether people know it or not. It will improve relations between Church and state and between other religions."

Holidaymaker Francis Piscopo, from Malta, was also among those cheering as the Pope left Holyroodhouse and made his way past Abbeyhill in the city.

He said: "The Pope is following us I think. We saw him in Malta. Then, when we arrived in Cyprus, we missed him by a day and now he's here in Scotland with us.

"The crowd here seem a bit more mooted though."

Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales, was among those who met the pontiff upon his arrival in Edinburgh.

He said: "He was quite anxious to mend fences, I thought, and emphasised the role of religion.

Image caption The Pope's cavalcade had blacked out windows on arrival in Edinburgh

"He said this has been a Christian nation for the last 1,000 years, with Christian foundations and therefore we must be aware of our Christian roots."

The visit has attracted protest from groups campaigning for gay rights and from those representing other religions.

About 150 demonstrators from the umbrella group Protest the Pope gathered at the city's Festival Square.

They held banners with slogans reading "stop protecting paedophile priests" and "condoms save lives".

Protest organiser Mike Williamson, 21, said: "We don't think it was appropriate that the Pope was given a state visit.

"His opposition to LGBT rights, his comments about condoms spreading Aids, his interference with women's reproduction rights, and the abuse scandals are all at a massive cost to the taxpayer at a time of recession."

Across the street from the demonstrators, about 30 members of the Grand Orange Lodge Of Scotland held a silent protest against the visit.

Reporting from the BBC's Nuala Napier, Gavin Walker, Morag Kinniburgh and Nina Macleod.

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