The Vatican has said that Pope Benedict XVI will still visit Britain this September despite the leak of a Foreign Office document which appeared to mock Catholic beliefs.
The document, which the Foreign Office said was written by a junior member of staff, suggested that the Pope be invited to bless a gay marriage, open up a hospital abortion ward and be presented with his own “Benedict” brand of condoms during the visit.
Although some newspapers reported that a furious Vatican intended to cancel the visit, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said: “For us the case is closed.”
He told the ANSA news agency the incident would have “absolutely” no impact on the trip.
After the memo was leaked, the Foreign Office took the unusual step of making an apology to the Vatican.
The document was described as “foolish” by the Foreign Office and was said to be a “brainstorm” exercise rather than official government policy.
The Rt Rev Malcolm McMahon told the BBC: “I think it’s a lot worse that we invite someone into our country – a person like the Pope – and then he’s treated in this way.
“I think it’s appalling manners more than anything else.”
Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy, who is leading planning for the visit, said on Sky’s Scotland leaders’ debate: “It’s absolutely despicable, these [ideas] 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.”
Protesters are already planning demonstrations against the Pope’s visit.
They argue that his visit must not be funded by the taxpayer due to the his “intolerant” views on homosexuality, abortion, contraception and women.
Critics also claim that he helped cover up abuse of Catholic children by priests.