‘Say nope to Pope’
First official Papal visit to UK is set to begin amid wave of controversy, protests, anger
Pope Benedict arrives in Britain today for the first papal visit to the nation in 28 years, but organisers are having difficulty selling tickets to appearances and many high profile Britons have signed a letter protesting the visit.
It will be the first-ever state visit to Britain by a pope, an occasion that Prime Minister David Cameron has said is “incredibly important and historic.”
But many ordinary Britons don’t seem to agree that the Pope is deserving of the honour of a visit.
Preparations for the trip, the first by a Pope since 1982, have sparked a hostile debate about the cost in a time of national austerity.
This combined with a deep undermining in public confidence on the way the Catholic Church has dealt with paedophile priests has made several people furious.
A report yesterday revealed more than half of the Catholic clergy jailed for child abuse in England and Wales following the 2001 Nolan Report were still in the priesthood.
It was found that one of the report’s key recommendations — the defrocking of priests sentenced to a year or more in jail had not been followed. At least 14 of the 22 priests who served a year or more appear in the latest church yearbook.
Recent opinion polls suggest a growing suspicion and disappointment among Catholics about their church’s response to many other critical social issues.
Another reason why citizens are upset about the Pope’s visit is the cost. Women were particularly unhappy about the cost of the visit, estimated at between £15 million (Rs 110 crore), excluding policing and security costs.
57 per cent said they did not feel strongly about the visit but objected to the taxpayer paying for it.
British newspapers have reported that ticket sales were down and thousands of seats for Masses and other major public functions were unsold. Even the major event, the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman, has not met expectations.
Cost has also emerged as an issue for many. Entry to the beatification Mass on Sunday, the final day of the Pope’s visit, costs £25 (Rs 1,800).
Also, the security for the Pope will also cause traffic related issues. Scottish police have already revealed they will deploy 1,600 officers, backed by armed units to protect the pope. The pontiff’s own personal guard will not carry weapons.
More than 60 bridges will be temporarily closed when his 15-vehicle convoy travels from Edinburgh to Glasgow.
Third world jibe
Pope Benedict XVI also had to face fresh turmoil yesterday, as it was reported that a close papal adviser described Britain as a “Third World country” afflicted by an “aggressive atheism.”
The remarks, made by German Cardinal Walter Kasper to a German news magazine earlier this week, were seen as adding to the tension that surrounds the historic visit, which starts today.
Kasper (77), had been dropped from the trip because of his remarks, but a Vatican spokesman said health reasons were behind his absence. Vatican sources were quoted as saying the German prelate was suffering from gout.
A Vatican spokesman said the Cardinal had ‘not intended any kind of slight’ and his remarks were merely referring to Britain’s multi- cultural society.’ “Britain today is a secularised, pluralistic country,” the cardinal was quoted as saying. “When you land at Heathrow airport, you think at times you have landed in a Third World country.”
The embarrassing revelations are likely to intensify anti-papal sentiment in Britain, where secular organisations, human rights groups and critics of Roman Catholic teaching on major social issues have announced protests.
However, Cameron said the Pope’s visit will be special “not just for our six million Catholics, but for many people of faith right across Britain and millions more watching around the world.”
immaculately conceived icecream!
An icecream company banned from using an advertisement showing a pregnant nun has vowed to defy regulators by placing similar posters along the route of the Pope’s London visit.
The Advertising Standards Authority announced that it had banned the ad for the Antonio Federici brand for “making a mockery” of the beliefs of Catholics. The ad, which appeared in The Lady and Grazia magazines earlier this year, showed the heavily pregnant nun standing in a church holding a tub of icecream and a spoon, with text stating “Immaculately conceived” and “Ice-cream is our religion.”
Antonio Federici said it intended to publish another ad with “a continuation of the theme” and was securing billboards along the route of the Pope’s cavalcade around Westminster Cathedral.