The National Secular Society is to deliver a 28,000-signature petition to Downing Street in protest at the Pope’s UK visit.

The online petition was set up by the organisation to complain over the estimated £20 million cost of the visit to taxpayers.

Representatives from the NSS will deliver it to 10 Downing Street at 2pm on Thursday.

NSS president Terry Sanderson said: “We were astonished at the level of interest this petition generated and we think it goes some way to illustrate the anger and resentment many people feel at the idea of their taxes being used to import the particular brand of intolerance that the present Pope embodies.”

The Pontiff, who has spoken out against gay marriage, abortion rights and contraception, is expected to visit the UK in September. Protests are being planned for his stay.

Mr Sanderson continued: “There are people from all walks of life who are angry, insulted and hurt by the way the Vatican opposes progress on issues such as homosexuality, contraception, abortion and stem cell research.

“There are also many who are appalled at the Pope’s cavalier attitude to the widespread child abuse carried out by its priests. It sometimes seems the church is more concerned with its own protection than with the protection of children in its care.”

When announcing his visit four weeks ago, the Pope took the opportunity to launch an unprecedented attack on a government attempt to make churches comply with gay equality legislation, saying it “violates the natural law”.

The government subsequently decided not to force the amendments to the Equality Bill through.