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April 30 2010 £1.20 (Republic of Ireland €1.70)
Papal visit to Britain to go ahead despite ‘vile’ Foreign Office memo
BY ANNA ARCO AND EDWARD PENTIN IN ROME
THE PAPAL visit to Britain is likely to go ahead despite a “vile” Foreign Office memo suggesting the Pope open an abortion clinic during his trip.
But Vatican officials are said to be reviewing Benedict XVI’s visit to Britain after the Foreign Office memo, which also proposed a papal apology for the Armada and the launch of “Benedict” condoms, was leaked.
Some sources believe that the four-day stay could be cut down to a flying visit for the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman.
Fr Federico Lombardi, the Vatican’s spokesman, has insisted that the memo will not jeopardise the papal visit to Britain.
Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy, one of the key organisers of the papal visit, described the memo as “despicable”. He said: “These are vile, they’re insulting, they are an embarrassment and, on behalf of the whole of the United Kingdom, we’d want to apologise to His Holiness, the Pope.”
Other Government officials distanced themselves from the incident. Welsh Secretary Peter Hain telephoned Archbishop Peter Smith of Cardiff to apologise.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued an apology for the “foolish” memo and said “many of the ideas in the document are clearly ill-judged, naïve and disrespectful”.
The incident was at first played down as a juvenile prank by junior civil servants. But it subsequently emerged that it was produced by a group of mid-level officials. The memo, which was drafted in late February or early March, was sent to 10 Downing Street and three Whitehall departments but not, it is believed, to Francis Campbell, Britain’s ambassador to the Holy See.
The New Statesman quoted a senior Whitehall source who said: “This was not written as a joke. It was meant to be a serious brainstorming by various people designed for a meeting. I know it is hard to believe but it is serious.”
Another well-connected source said: “This is a thoroughly disgusting piece of work. This is not a joke, never intended as a joke – it’s offensive, vile and thoughtthrough.”
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, in central London, described the memo as ‘foolish’ and ‘disrespectful’
The memo, which was leaked to the Sunday Telegraph, was part of a three-page background document and carried a list of proposals entitled “The ideal visit would see...” It was labelled: “Please protect; these should not be shared externally.”
A source told The Catholic Herald that the proposals in the memo were put together in a large brainstorming session between mid-level diplomats and officials. At “no stage did it occur to them that some of these suggestions would be inappropriate”, he said.
The Daily Mail reported that Anjoum Noorani, the head of the four-man Foreign Office papal visit team, had authorised the document’s circulation. Mr Noorani has now been moved to another department.
According to the source, the memo was widely circulated before anyone noticed that there might be something wrong with the proposals. The memo, he said, was even the subject of a serious discussion. It was only when it was circulated outside the Foreign Office that people began to object.
Suggestions on the list were ranked according to impact and ordered in terms of priority. The top suggestion was launching “Benedict” condoms, while other priorities included getting the Pope to open an abortion ward and bless a same-sex union. The memo also suggested the Vatican
OUR COMMENT There is one relatively simple route out of this minefield, and that is to make the Popeʼs visit a pastoral rather than a state one. Editorial Comment: Page 11
review the Church’s teaching on condoms and the ordination of women and sponsor a network of HIV/Aids clinics. According to 2006 Vatican estimates, the Church already provides almost 25 per cent of the care administered to those suffering from HIV/Aids globally.
A “stakeholder chart” accompanied the memo, grading people who might influence the papal visit, both positively and negatively. The singer Susan Boyle was classed as more influential than Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, while Greenpeace and the New Atheists were described as negative but not influential.
Francis Campbell, the British ambassador to the Holy See, met Vatican officials last Saturday to deliver the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s apology.
Church sources in England and Wales said the memo reflected the difficulties they had been having
in trying to organise a papal visit with officials who seemed not to understand or know much about Catholicism.
The September visit will be the first state visit to Britain by a pontiff, as Pope John Paul II’s 1982 visit was classed as pastoral. Benedict XVI was invited to Britain by both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Opposition leaders welcomed his visit.
All three leaders of Britain’s political parties voiced their support for the papal visit only days before details of the Foreign Office memo were published.
Speaking at a pre-election debate Gordon Brown, Conservative leader David Cameron and the Liberal Democrat leader Nick
Clegg said they welcomed Benedict XVI’s visit to Britain even though they did not agree with aspects of Catholic moral teaching.
Mr Brown spoke about the clerical abuse crisis, but said he supported the papal visit for two reasons. He said: “ I welcome the Pope’s visit to Britain and I want him to come to Britain for two reasons. One is the Catholic Church is a great part of our society and we should recognise it as such and I hope every British citizen wants to see this visit by the Pope take place and, secondly, we must break down the barriers of religion that exist in our world. The faiths must come together and recognise that they have common values and common interests. We all believe that we should be good neighbours to each other. I’m from the Presbyterian religion but I support the visit. I not only support it, I want religious faiths to work more closely together in society.”
Mr Cameron said: “I don’t agree with him about contraception, I don’t agree with him about homosexuality and I think the Catholic Church has got some very, very serious work to do to unearth and come to terms with some of the appalling things that have happened and they need to do that but I do think that we should respect people of faith.”
Mr Clegg said he was not a man of faith but he referred to his Catholic wife and children. He said: “I do welcome the Pope’s visit but I hope by the time he does visit there is a greater recognition that there has been terrible, terrible suffering, there have been abusive relationships which have left immeasurable scars on people’s lives, and we need a process of openness and then healing. You can’t undo the tragedies of the past but you can be open about them so people can start to move on.”
Meanwhile, preparations for the papal visit are moving ahead. The Church is expected to try to raise over £6 million for the visit. It is believed the Bishops of England and Wales will soon announce that proceeds from the second collection at Pentecost will go towards the visit. People who wish to donate towards the cost can already do so at www.thepapalvisit.org.uk.
Charterhouse: Page 20
Vatican to approve new English translation of the Mass this week
BY ANNA ARCO
THE CONGREGATION for Divine Worship was expected to formally approve the new English translation of the Roman Missal on Wednesday.
Pope Benedict met members of the Vox Clara Committee, the international group of bishops working with the Vatican on the new translation of the liturgical texts, ahead of the announcement.
Cardinal George Pell, the Australian chairman of the
Vox Clara Committee, said that the new Missal was not likely to be available before 2011. It is due to appear in Advent next year after technical adjustments are made.
The new Mass text has been a source of serious controversy. There were protests when sections of the new translation were used in parishes in South Africa last year. A group of American Catholics have started a campaign entitled “What if we just said wait?”
The 2001 Vatican document Liturgiam Authenticam called for liturgical texts in English to conform more closely to the Latin texts of the Novus Ordo. The Congregation for Divine Worship asked the International Commission for English in the Liturgy (ICEL) to prepare a new translation.
The body is a mixed commission of the bishops’ conferences in English-speaking countries, designed to prepare the translations of the liturgical books and other liturgical texts according to the directives of the Holy See.
Bishop Arthur Roche of Leeds, the ICEL representative for England and Wales, travelled to Rome to attend the final meetings this week.
In the new translation the creed begins with “I believe” rather than with “We believe” and the response to “The Lord be with you” has changed from “And also with you” to “And with your spirit”.
Iraqis defy militants to build Jesus statue
Catholic is fastest Briton in marathon
BY ED WEST
CHRISTIANS in Iraq have defied persecution by erecting a statue of Jesus modelled on the giant Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro.
The sculpture, which at 130 feet (40 metres) is a tenth of the size of the Brazilian original, has become a popular site for visitors in Bakhdida, in Nineveh province, the north’s largest Christian town.
Bashar Jarjees Habash, the city’s co-ordinator of Christian affairs, said: “The idea of the statue is not to say ‘Christians were here’ in case we leave. But the idea of building the statue of Jesus opening his arms is to send a message of peace to everyone to say we want to live in peace with all.
“The people of this area have always tried to live in peace with everyone, even those who fight and threaten them,” he said. The brick and plaster structure was built with the help of 20 volunteers over a month and cost 150,000 dinars – just £80.
BY DAVID V BARRETT
A SCOTTISH Catholic was the fastest-running Briton in last Sunday’s London Marathon. Andrew Lemoncello, 27, running his first marathon, finished eighth in two hours and 13 minutes.
Mr Lemoncello, born in Tokyo but brought up in St Andrews, now lives in Arizona with his American fiancée Julie. Three weeks before the marathon he was baptised a Catholic ahead of his wedding in November.
He says his faith gives him strength when he is running. “There are a lot of times when I’m out on the road and I can go for a while just drifting away because I’m saying a prayer,” he said.
“There is a strength there that I had never used before. When it gets painful, I embrace it now and come out stronger.”
DON’T MISS: GEORGE WEIGEL TAKES ON HANS KÜNG PAGE 5