Pope Benedict set to visit Britain next year

Pope Benedict XVI greets the faithful during his Sunday Angelus prayer at his summer residence of Castelgandolfo, south of Rome, September 13, 2009. REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico

LONDON (Reuters) - Pope Benedict will visit Britain next year following an invitation from Prime Minister Gordon Brown, a government source said on Wednesday.

The visit is expected to coincide with a beatification ceremony for Cardinal John Henry Newman, one of the most prominent English converts from Anglicanism to Catholicism.

Church sources in Rome confirmed a visit was likely in the spring but there were no firm details for the moment.

It would be the first visit to Britain by a pontiff since Pope John Paul came in 1982. About 5 million Catholics live in England.

Newman, who converted to Catholicism in 1845, was a key figure in the Oxford Movement, which tried to move the Church of England closer to its Catholic origins.

Additional reporting by Phil Pullella in Rome