Pope confirms details of UK visit
Pope Benedict XVI has confirmed the details of his UK visit this September, which will include beatifying a man who was rumoured to be gay.
He will visit the UK between September 16th and 19th, beginning his stay in Edinburgh where he will be welcomed at Holyrood by the Queen.
The pontiff will also beatify 19th century theologian Cardinal John Henry Newman, whose sexual orientation has been debated.
Newman, who was celibate, wrote in what some saw as a feminine style and lived with another man, causing some critics to speculate he was gay.
Peter Tatchell claimed in 2008 that Newman was in a gay relationship with his great friend Father Ambrose St John and that Vatican orders to move Newman’s body from Birmingham to Edgbaston were “an act of moral vandalism”.
During his three-day stay, the Pope will also visit the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace and pray at Westminster Abbey.
He is expected to lead a public Mass in Glasgow and a prayer vigil in London.
Protests are being planned during his visit by groups angry at his stance on homosexuality, abortion rights and AIDS.
It has been estimated that the visit may cost taxpayers up to £20 million, as he was invited by prime minister Gordon Brown.
Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: “I cannot believe that we are lauding the head of an organisation that not only insults and denigrates homosexuals, tries to restrict the rights of women by banning contraception and abortion, but deliberately lies about the effectiveness of condoms in the fight against AIDS.
“This invitation is a rebuke to all those Britons who are incensed by the horrific revelations that are emerging daily about the Vatican’s activities. The government should be sharply criticising rather than welcoming this man.”
Last week the NSS handed in a 28,000-name petition to Downing Street objecting to the state funding of the visit.