Pope Benedict in Britain: historic event, or mistake?
Pope Benedict XVI's first visit to the UK
As the Pope prepares to meet the great and the good this week, Who Knows Who finds his route to the top is strewn with controversies - not everyone will be pleased to see him.
Outside the Catholic community, the first papal visit to the UK in almost three decades has been met with indifference by many people in the UK.
Nevertheless, with six million Catholics residing in the UK and the world watching, his four-day trip, costing the taxpayer around £12m, is expected to draw crowds and criticism in equal droves.
Pope Benedict XVI's conservative stance has upset Muslims, Jews, homosexuals, women and religious pluralists, among others.
That conservatism is rooted in his rise through academic theology, to the top Vatican job of protecting doctrinal orthodoxy.
Born Joseph Ratzinger, into a traditional German farming family from Lower Bavaria in 1927, Benedict's father was a policeman and his mother was a cook.
His youth coincided with Hitler's rise to power, during which he lived in a small village near the Austrian border. Aged 14, he was a reluctant recruit to the Hitler Youth before deserting the German army towards the end of the war. For a short time during 1945, he was a prisoner of war.
A year later he took up the study of philosophy and theology at the University of Munich, before graduating and becoming a priest in 1951.
A theology teacher until he was appointed Archbishop of Munich and Freising, Benedict was made a cardinal in 1977, rising through the church as a close associate of Pope John Paul II who he succeeded in 2005.
Despite his native German tongue, the Pope speaks with an Italian accent - which he is fluent in, alongside French, English, Spanish and Latin. He can also read ancient Greek and biblical Hebrew.
Protestant preacher Ian Paisley – Northern Ireland's former first minister – has deemed the Pope's invitation to the UK a mistake, and has criticised the Catholic church for its response to the child sex abuse scandal.
Despite the Pope's apology to the child abuse victims of the Catholic clergy, victims' groups remain outraged – while atheists Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have called on the British government to arrest the Pope over allegations he "covered up" the scandal.
The Pope's conservative theology has seen him heavily criticised, with PR disasters including the Regensburg address in 2006 – during which he quotes a Byzantine emperor who called Islam "evil and inhuman" – which was widely viewed as an attack on Muslims.
Two years later, Benedict declared that behaviour outside heterosexual relations amounted to the "destruction of God's work" – he went on to say that saving humanity from homosexuality was just as important as saving the rainforest from destruction.
German chancellor Angela Merkel was outraged at Benedict's decision to pardon the Holocaust-denying British bishop Richard Williamson, and demanded "clarification" of the Vatican's position on the Holocaust – in Germany Holocaust denial is a crime punishable by five years' imprisonment.
In his first meeting with the US President Barack Obama, the Pope pressed Obama on abortion and stem cell research.
He has previously described rock music as "a vehicle of anti-religion" and protestant churches as "deficient".
Relations between the two faiths have been strained, despite "cordial" talks between the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Pope last year. The archbishop, Dr Rowan Williams, confronted the Pope over the Vatican's overtures to disaffected Anglicans.
The Vatican issued an "apostolic constitution" last November, whose intention appeared to be to ease the integration of former Anglicans into the Catholic church.
Historic British visit
Having smoothed over earlier hostilities from Whitehall – namely the now notorious "blue-sky thinking" internal Foreign Office memo that suggested the Pope visit an abortion clinic – lifelong Catholic Lord Patten is to coordinate the "great Commonwealth event".
Patten, a former Tory Cabinet minister and the last governor of Hong Kong, has promoted the historic event beyond Britain's perhaps not-so welcome borders – to Canada and Australia. Catholics account for 40 per cent and 25 per cent of the countries' respective populations, by far outstripping Britain's 10 per cent stock.
The Pope will meet the "fairly classic Church of England" David Cameron, and his atheist deputy Nick Clegg - whose marriage however to the Roman Catholic Miriam will see his children brought up as Catholics.
Perhaps the most tense encounter for his holiness will be with acting Labour leader Harriet Harman, who despite being married to the Catholic Labour MP Jack Dromey, has fiercely defended of the rights of minority groups as well as advocating women priests as equality minister.
By contrast, former Conservative minister Anne Widdecombe converted to Catholicism in 1993 in protest at the ordination of female priests in the Church of England.
Ms Widdecombe will feature prominently in the media during the visit, presenting a documentary on the 19th century English theologian Cardinal Newman (another notable convert to Catholicism), whom Pope Benedict is due to beatify – the first step towards becoming a saint – on Sunday.
It was there that Baroness Thatcher, who was politically close to Benedict's predecessor Pope John Paul II, encouraged the Pope to accept Gordon Brown's invitation to the UK.
John Paul II was the first pope to visit Britain at the time of the Falklands war in 1982. His visit was however, not a state visit, unlike Benedict's. Taxpayers pay for state visits and will be forking out £12m of the £19m cost of Benedict's visit, a further source of discontent during these difficult times of austerity.
Pope Benedict XVI will visit the UK between 16-19 September 2010 - full details of his visit can be found here
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Who are we talking about?
Head of the Catholic church
Joseph Ratzinger was elected Pope on 19 April 2005.Connections: 17 (See map)
Scientist and author
British ethologist, evolutionary biologist and popular science author of titles including The God Delusion.Connections: 2 (See map)
Chairman of the Christian Democratic Union party in Germany, Merkel has led the country as Chancellor since 2005.Connections: 8 (See map)
Queen Elizabeth II has been the British head of state since her coronation in 1952. As Head of State, she must remain politically neutral, since her government is formed from whichever party can form…Connections: 26 (See map)
Conservative peer and former prime minister
Margaret Thatcher, nickenamed "the Iron Lady", served as British prime minister from 1979 to 1990.Connections: 11 (See map)