TODAY   |  September 16, 2010

Queen welcomes pope in Scotland

Pope Benedict XVI is making the first official papal visit to Britain in nearly 500 years and meeting with the official head of the Anglican Church, Queen Elizabeth II. NBC’s Stephanie Gosk reports.

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MEREDITH VIEIRA, co-host: But let us begin with Pope Benedict 's controversial and historical four- day trip to the United Kingdom . NBC 's Stephanie Gosk is in Edinburgh , Scotland with that. Stephanie , good morning to you.

STEPHANIE GOSK reporting: Good morning, Meredith . Well, the pope arrived here in Edinburgh this morning on board an Alitalia jet with the call sign Shepherd One. On the flight over, he addressed the priest abuse scandal with reporters. He said that the Catholic Church didn't act fast enough or decisively enough. And that's just one of many controversial issues he's going to have to deal with in his four- day trip here. It's the first official state visit by a pope to Britain in nearly 500 years. Greeted by Prince Philip and Scottish clergy, he made his way along Edinburgh 's Royal Mile to Hollyrood Palace to be received by the queen. The pope's meeting with the queen is a rare event, and this exchange of gifts a gesture that Britain 's Catholics hope will mend a rift that began with King Henry VIII in the 16th century .

GOSK: Henry VIII went on to marry five more wives and demolished and sold off Catholic monasteries in an ongoing feud with the Vatican that led to a permanent split from the church in Rome .

Dr. LUCY WORSLEY (Historian): For hundreds of years, it was illegal to be a Catholic in this country, and he's been persona non grata really since the 16th century . So it's a sort of -- it's a healing. He's back again.

GOSK: The faithful in Scotland are flocking to catch a glimpse of Pope Benedict in the bulletproof popemobile, like these Catholic schoolkids. How fast does it go?

Unidentified Boy #1: Normally it goes 150 miles an hour.

GOSK: It goes 150 -- the popemobile goes 150 miles an hour?

Group of children: Yes.

GOSK: No, it doesn't.

Unidentified Boy #2: Just like there's -- just in case there's something serious that happens.

GOSK: But not everyone is welcoming. Some are getting ready for a confrontation.

Unidentified Man #1: We are urging the pope to open the Vatican secret sex files.

GOSK: As elsewhere in the Catholic world , there is anger about the lingering sex abuse scandal that has rocked the church for nearly a decade.

Unidentified Man #2: The church has made a mess of its response to incidences of child abuse.

GOSK: And there is resentment of the pope's inflexibility on the issue of women priests.

Archbishop VINCENT NICHOLS: Oh, there's always controversy about papal visits, and then when he arrives the sun comes out and those clouds disperse and people really take to him.

GOSK: Scottish singing sensation Susan Boyle can't wait to meet the pope tonight. Her Catholic faith has carried her though difficult times, she says, and she's ready to give Pope Benedict the performance of her life.

Ms. SUSAN BOYLE: To sing for his holiness is a dream beyond anyone's imagination. I'll probably be feeling excited. I'm very honored to be here and I'm very humble.

GOSK: The trip began with even more controversy. One of the pope's chief aides, Cardinal Walter Kasper , gave an interview with a German magazine where he compared landing in London's Heathrow Airport to landing in a third world country. A lot of people were very offended by those comments. Late last night the cardinal pulled out of the trip. The Vatican says that he isn't