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Murphy in talks to bring Pope Benedict to Scotland

The Scottish Secretary has invited the leader of the Roman Catholic Church to visit Scotland.

Scotland could welcome its first papal visit in almost 30 years after Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy extended an invitation to Pope Benedict XVI.

Mr Murphy has also invited newly elected US President Barack Obama for an official visit.

The Secretary of State said: "I would like both of them to come to Scotland."

He has discussed a possible Scottish visit from the Pontiff with Gordon Brown, who has already invited the leader of the world's one billion Catholics to the UK.

Mr Murphy said it will be for Downing Street, Buckingham Palace, and the Vatican to organise the details of any such visit. However, he confirmed the feedback so far had been "positive".

Recent talks between the Prime Minister and the Pope at the Vatican touched on international debt and the global economic crisis - but culminated in an invite to the UK.

"I spoke to the Prime Minister about it on Monday on the back of it and said as part of the UK visit - in the discussions about when, how and what - a visit to Scotland I think would be appreciated by Scots," Mr Murphy elaborated.

He has also written to Downing Street to formalise his request.

Mr Murphy also aims to roll out the red carpet for America's new president Barack Obama. That trip would be arranged through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Pope John Paul II made a six-day trip in 1982, which included Mass in Bellahouston Park in Glasgow attended by about 300,000 people.

The date of any UK visit is not clear, according to Mr Murphy, although the Prime Minister has said the Pontiff could visit as soon as he wanted.

But the 81-year-old is due to travel to Cameroon and Angola in March, with a trip to Israel also scheduled for later in 2009.

Mr Murphy was responsible for relations with the Vatican in his previous Government role as Europe minister and described relations with the city state as "fascinating".

He met the Pope in 2008 and said at the time it was a "wonderful opportunity which I will never forget".

A spokesman for the Roman Catholic Church said it is too early to say what form any proposed visit will take.

But he added: "We would absolutely welcome the possibility of a visit by Pope Benedict XVI.

"But, of course, we appreciate there are many other countries who have never had a papal visit and would like one."

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