Uproar over UK Foreign Office take on Papal visit

Following the uproar after the release of the controversial Foreign Office memos that suggested that Pope Benedict XVI's visit to UK this September could be marked by the launch of "Benedict" condoms. The Foreign Office document, called "The ideal visit would see...", said the Pope could be invited to open an abortion clinic, launch a range of condoms, singing a charity duet with the Queen and bless a gay marriage. The document raised the issues of child abuse by priests and urged the “sacking” of “dodgy bishops” and opening helplines for abused children.

Condemnation

Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy has offered an apology for the comments. The visit is scheduled from 16 to 19 September and is the first Papal UK tour since 1982. “On these memos, it's absolutely despicable….These are vile, they're insulting they are an embarrassment, and, on behalf of the whole of the United Kingdom, we'd want to apologize to his Holiness the Pope,” he said. Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond also said, “These are memos which have been going about the Foreign Office which say incredibly offensive things about the Pope….It just seems extraordinary there should be these juvenile antics over a serious visit.” Conservative Scottish affairs spokesman David Mundell said in his statement, “What it shows is that there's certainly plenty of waste in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to be rooted out.”

Apologies

The Foreign Office has issued a public apology saying that the paper was a result of a “brainstorm” and did not reflect its views.

A spokesman for Cardinal O'Brien said: “The cardinal has received and accepted an apology from the head of the diplomatic service and Foreign Office Permanent Under-Secretary, Sir Peter Ricketts.”

Response

A Senior Vatican spokesman said, “It's possible the trip could be cancelled as this matter is hugely offensive.” The plan was that the Pope is would start his UK visit in Scotland, meeting the Queen at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh before leading an open-air Mass in Glasgow's Bellahouston Park.

The Catholic Church in Scotland demanded stern action over the memo for “a lack of respect and serious engagement on the Foreign Office's part” towards the Papal visit.

A spokesman said, “There is serious and deep concern that not only was this document created and so widely disseminated, but that it took so long before alarm bells were rung…There will be those who begin to ask two questions: was moving the person who created this document sideways sufficient; and, secondly, does this question the lead role that the Foreign Office have in the planning for this visit?”

A senor Catholic source from Scotland also said, “It is felt that there appears to be a lack of respect and serious engagement on the Foreign Office's part. If there was a visit from Barack Obama then you wouldn't imagine a memo circulating with gratuitously offensive racist suggestions in it; that's just not imaginable. And in the event of anything like that happening, you can imagine the Foreign Office taking really hard and severe action.”

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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