Foreign Office forgets basic diplomacy and respect over Papal visit

WITH so much time, effort and energy going into planning the Papal Visit by both the Church and the Government, the offensive leaked Foreign Office document on how the trip could be made most memorable is indeed an unfortunate and extremely ill-timed gaffe.

Brainstorming suggestions-sent to Downing Street and three Whitehall departments – include the launch of “Benedict” condoms to coincide with the Papal visit to Britain. The memo also proposed that Pope Benedict XVI should sponsor a network of AIDS clinics, conduct a training course for bishops on child abuse allegations and stay in a council flat while here. It also suggested getting the Pope and Queen Elizabeth II  to sing a duet for charity.

It seems to be the result of inexperience junior civil servants in a poor attempt at humour. While it may not have been intended to cause offence, it is goes beyond disrespect to stupidity. Hopefully, however, lessons have been learned from this and we can all move on in eager anticipation of the arrival of Pope Benedict in Scotland on September 16.

Francis Campbell, Britain’s ambassador to the Holy See, has apologised in person to his Vatican counterpart.

The Vatican appears to be taking the issue seriously but the incident will have ‘absolutely’ no impact on the Pope’s visit in September, according to Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi.

Just how much damage has been done to British-Vatican relations remains to be seen.

Cardinal Renato Martino, the former head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said: “The British government has invited the Pope as its guest and he should be treated with respect.

“To make a mockery of his beliefs and the beliefs of millions of Catholics not just in Britain but across the world is very offensive indeed.”

Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy, the minister in charge of the Papal visit, said the Foreign Office memo was ‘absolutely despicable, these are vile, they’re insulting, they are an embarrassment, and on behalf of I think the whole of the United Kingdom we’d want to apologise to his Holiness the Pope.’

Cross Wires here at the Scottish Catholic Observer is thoroughly disgusted by the whole incident.


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