VATICAN CITY (AFP) – Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday said his recent visit to Britain was "an historic event" which marked a new phase in the Vatican's complicated relations with the predominantly Anglican country.

"This was a historic event marking a new and important phase in the long and complicated history of relations between this population and the Holy See," the pope said during his general audience.

"In the course of the intense and very beautiful four days spent in this noble country, I had the great pleasure of speaking to the heart of the inhabitants of the United Kingdom and they spoke to my heart, most particularly with their presence and the testimony of their faith," he said.

"I witnessed how the Christian faith is still strong and active at each level of society," he said.

The pope also praised "the warm welcome from authorities, members of diverse social communities, representatives of different faiths and above all the population".

The trip, the first ever state visit to Britain by a leader of the Roman Catholic Church and the first papal trip to Britain since John Paul II in 1982, took place from last Thursday to Sunday under intense scrutiny and was widely hailed as a success.