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Pope visit to UK will go ahead

Arrest notion 'curious' says Vatican

13 April, 16:02
Pope visit to UK will go ahead (see previous story on site). (ANSA) - Vatican City, April 13 - Pope Benedict XVI's September visit to Britain will go ahead despite a campaign spearheaded by atheist campaigners Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins to have him arrested for crimes against humanity, the Vatican said Tuesday.

UK human rights lawyers are preparing a brief against Benedict for his alleged cover-up of Catholic Church sex abuse.

Hitchens says the Vatican isn't a legal state and the pope can't claim diplomatic immunity.

Evolutionary biologist Dawkins, who endorsed the firebrand writer's idea, has been scathing in his criticism of the pope and said he hoped to raise public consciousness "to the point where the British government will find it very awkward indeed to go ahead with the Pope's visit".

Vatican Spokesman Father Federico Lombardo described the atheists' initiative as "original".

"For the moment it appears to be merely a stunt to get public attention".

"It would be very curious for the pope to be arrested during a state visit," Lombardi said.

Arrangements for the pope's September visit to England and Scotland have not officially been changed in the face of protests against sex abuse scandals, most recently obscene slogans daubed on the house in Bavaria where he was born.

But security will reportedly be tightened after victims groups and secularists announced a series of high-profile and potentially provocative events.

Some victims have called on the pope to resign.

Father Lombardi was speaking at a press conference outlining Benedict's visit to Malta this weekend, over which he said there were "no particular security concerns.

Lombardi said the pope would not discuss the abuse scandals in Malta but talk about immigration and values.

However, he is willing to meet with victims of abuse privately as he has already done during visits to Australia and the United States.

Benedict's visit to the UK will be the first state visit by a pontiff because a 1982 one by John Paul II was a pastoral one.


The pope will see Queen Elizabeth and beatify England's most famous convert to Catholicism, Cardinal John Henry Newman, during his visit on September 16-19.

The pope will meet the queen at Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, the official royal residence in Scotland, while he will beatify Newman, an Anglican churchman who converted to Rome in the mid-19th century, at a public Mass at Coventry in the West Midlands.

Benedict will also visit Birmingham, Britain's second city where Newman worked and studied, as well as Glasgow in Scotland, where he will say Mass.

After leading a prayer vigil and a gathering about education in London, the pontiff will also see the Archbishop of Canterbury and pray with other Christian leaders, in a gathering seen as particularly significant given the Vatican's recent opening of a special department for groups of Anglicans to 'return to Rome'.

The theme of Benedict's trip will be inter-Church and interreligious relations.

During his visit, Benedict will also make a speech to representatives of civil society at Westminster Hall, where Sir Thomas More, England's first saint, was tried and condemned to death in 1535 for his loyalty to the Vatican against King Henry VII.

More and Sir John Fisher, another dissident against King Henry's break with Rome, were canonised in 1935.

Should Newman follow them he would be England's most recent saint.

The pope's schedule is on line at

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