BIRMINGHAM, England — The Vatican declared Pope Benedict XVI's four-day visit to Britain a "great success" Sunday, saying the pontiff was able to reach out to a nation wary of his message and angry at his church's sex abuse scandal.
On his final day, Benedict praised British heroics against the Nazis to mark the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain and moved an Englishman a step closer to possible sainthood.
The Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, said the important thing wasn't so much the turnout — crowds were much smaller than when Pope John Paul II visited in 1982 — but that Benedict's warning about the dangers of an increasingly secularized society had been received "with profound interest" from Britons as a whole.
Indeed, the British media coverage was remarkable in the seriousness with which newspapers and television took Benedict's message, and TV stations ran virtually all of the pope's speeches, Masses and other events live.
Prime Minister David Cameron, in his farewell speech before Benedict's departure ceremony, said the pope had "challenged the whole country to sit up and think, and that can only be a good thing."
Before he left Britain on Sunday, Benedict beatified Cardinal John Henry Newman before tens of thousands of faithful who paid $39 to attend.
Newman, a 19th century Anglican convert to Catholicism, was honored at an open-air Mass in Birmingham, the spiritual highlight of Benedict's trip. The theologian was enormously influential in both churches, and Benedict wants to hold him up as a model for the faithful for having followed his conscience despite great costs.