The response appears to have been generally positive — but grudgingly so:

British media Monday hailed Pope Benedict XVI for shedding his distant and authoritarian image on his historic state visit, but cautioned the Catholic Church still faced challenges in the nation.

The pontiff succeeded in presenting himself as a lovable, elderly figure — a far cry from the “Rottweiler” image, they said.

“What the visit accomplished above all was to unify Catholics and humanise a pope who has so often been perceived as cold, aloof and authoritarian,” wrote Catherine Pepinster, editor of The Tablet newspaper, a British Catholic weekly.

“The fabled Vatican ‘Rottweiler’ turned out to be a shy, warm and frail 83-year-old who perked up every time his security detail allowed him to greet people, especially youngsters and his own generation.”

Before the first ever state papal visit to Britain, Benedict had been viewed as a “remote Teutonic hardliner,” said the Times daily.

But he appeared in a different light entirely on the trip and remarks aimed at easing tensions between Anglicans and Catholics, such as on shared traditions and culture, played a great part in this transformation, it said.

“Ratzinger the rottweiler transformed into Benny the bunny,” enthused the paper, using the name of Benedict before he became pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

“We all want to cuddle up to him and get him to bless our babies.”

His four-day tour of mainly Anglican Britain, which took in Edinburgh, Glasgow, London and Birmingham, defied fears that it would be overshadowed by enormous protests or gaffes and the press in general regarded it as a success.

“This was a much more successful visit than the Roman Catholic hierarchy had dared to hope,” said the Daily Mail newspaper.

“The crowds were larger than had been forecast, if not as big as they were when the charismatic Pope John Paul II came to this country 28 years ago.”

Read on.

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