Papal visit to UK unaffected by ‘disrespectful’ Foreign Office memo

Pope Benedict XVI.
Pope Benedict XVI.

.- The British Foreign Office has apologized over a leaked memo which suggested Pope Benedict XVI bless a same-sex “marriage” or open an abortion clinic during an “ideal visit.” A Vatican spokesman said the incident would not affect the upcoming papal visit to England and Scotland.

The Sunday Telegraph obtained a copy of the memo, which said it should not be shared externally.

“The 'ideal visit' paper in particular was the product of a brainstorm session which took into account even the most far-fetched of ideas,” said the memo, which according to the BBC was authored by a junior civil servants.

Other passages of the memo suggested the Pope launch his own brand of condoms, start a helpline for abused children, sack “dodgy” bishops, apologize for the Spanish Armada and sing a song with the Queen.

The Foreign Office said the memo contained “naïve and disrespectful” ideas, was not cleared by its senior officials, and did not reflect its views, the BBC reports. The memo’s author has been placed on other duties.

The Guardian reports that the ideas were circulated across government offices in Whitehall, including Downing Street.

Jim Murphy, the cabinet minister overseeing the visit and a practicing Catholic, said the memo was “absolutely despicable,” “insulting,” and “an embarrassment.”

A Foreign Office official told the Guardian that the young civil servant is “completely contrite.”

Vatican spokesman Fr. Frederico Lombardi told the Italian news agency ANSA that the incident would have “absolutely” no impact on the Sept. 16-19 papal visit.

“For us the case is closed,” he said.

The Anglican Bishop of Chester Peter Forster told BBC Radio 4’s Today program that the memo is symptomatic of a greater problem between religion and the government.

"I think that Christianity has been so much a part of the furniture of our society that it tends to be neglected and taken for granted," he commented. "There's a 'familiarity breeding contempt' in some circles of society about our Christian heritage which leads to the distasteful events we had yesterday with that memo."


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