Pope travels to Britain for four-day visit
Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday left Rome to travel to Britain for a four-day state visit set to include meetings with Queen Elizabeth II, government officials, and leaders of the Anglican Church, DPA reported.
The Alitalia passenger jet carrying Benedict left the Italian capital's Ciampino airport around 8:20 am (0720 GMT). It was scheduled to arrive in Scotland at Edinburgh's International Airport around three and a half hours later.
The trip is the 83-year-old Benedict's 17th abroad since his election in 2005, and the first by a pontiff to Britain since John Paul II went in 1982.
The Vatican has indicated that Benedict's priority in Britain is to provide inspiration to the country's Catholic minority, who are living in an increasingly secularized society.
The pontiff will also seek to improve relations with the Anglican Church in pursuit of one of the stated principles of his pontificate - Christian unity.
Tens of thousands of people are expected to line the streets to greet him.
But protests have also been planned over Vatican policies on birth control, gay rights and abortion.
Feelings have also been running high in Britain over the issue of past child sex abuse in the Roman Catholic church, with the pope being urged to meet with victims during his visit.
Benedict is scheduled to return to Rome on Sunday.