‘Aggressive new atheism’?
Maybe the people in the UK just don’t like PEDOPHILES!
Pope visit: Cardinal drops out after calling UK ‘Third World’
Cardinal Walter Kasper, a senior aide to the Pope, has pulled out of the Pontiff’s visit to Britain after saying the country resembled a “Third World country” where “aggressive new atheism” is rife.
German Cardinal Walter Kasper was quoted in an interview with Focus magazine: ‘When you arrive at Heathrow you think at times that you’ve landed in a Third World country’ Photo: AP
Although officials insisted that the 77 year-old had dropped out of the trip for medical reasons, as he had been ill “for some days”, his comments represent another embarrassing PR blunder for the Roman Catholic church at a critical time.
The are all the more embarrassing because the Cardinal’s position makes him responsible for promoting Christian unity around the world.
The Vatican, the hierarchy in England and Wales and the Government are all desperate for the first-ever state papal visit to Britain to be a success.
The preparations for the Pope’s arrival have suffered a number of setbacks and thousands of tickets remain unsold for the large open-air Masses. Meanwhile secular groups have led protests against the £10million cost of the trip at a time of public sector cuts, and survivors of clergy abuse are angry that the Pope will be greeted by the Queen today at the start of a full state visit when the worldwide church stands accused of covering up the activities of paedophile priests.
Cardinal Kasper’s presence will also be missed during Benedict XVI’s visit to Britain as he is seen as more liberal than his fellow German, as well as an expert on ecumenical dialogue.
The cardinal’s abrupt withdrawal from the trip prompted speculation in Rome that it was linked to an interview he gave this week to a German news magazine, Focus.
In an article headlined “A Third World country” he was quoted as saying: “When you arrive at Heathrow you think at times that you’ve landed in a Third World country.”
His secretary, Mgr Oliver Lahl, said the remark was a reference to the diverse, multi-cultural population of Britain, which the Cardinal has visited three times in recent years.
Cardinal Kasper, who recently retired as the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity having headed it since 2001, said that Britain was a “secular and pluralist” country in which there was a “distance from God”, noting that there was “a crisis of faith” in much of the West.
He referred to the case of a British Airways employee, Nadia Eweida, who was suspended by the airline in 2006 after she refused to stop wearing a crucifix around her neck, and alluded to the activities of prominent atheists such as Prof Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion.
Cardinal Kasper said Christians in Britain suffered discrimination, “above all by an aggressive new atheism. If you wear a cross on British Airways, you are discriminated against.”
In a break with tradition, the Pope is returning to Rome with Alitalia rather than Britain’s flag carrier.
The Cardinal also said the Catholic Church would “never” allow the ordination of women. Asked if the Church might soften its position on women priests in 100 or 200 years, he said: “I’m not a prophet, but I don’t think so.”
The Anglican Communion has allowed women to be ordained and priests to be married, but the cardinal asked: “Does it seem to you that things have gone better for them?”
He had been due to take part in talks on ecumenicalism with senior Church of England figures this week, and predicted in the interview “a difficult dialogue”.
Cardinal Kasper added, however, that the Pope’s beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman in Birmingham “would not hinder” the building of closer relations with Anglicans.
He said Benedict was keen to find a “common strategy” with the Queen in defending Christian faith in Europe.
A Vatican source denied that the last minute withdrawal was a blow to the Pope’s trip but said that Cardinal Kasper’s “expertise” on ecumenical dialogue would be “much missed”.
“He is quite a liberal figure who doesn’t always see eye to eye with the Pope, and he has been very friendly towards the Anglicans,” the source said.
Meanwhile one of England’s most senior Catholics, The Most Rev Peter Smith, Archbishop of Southwark, has warned that “crackpots and lunatics” may try to disrupt the papal visit.
The Protest the Pope coalition has promised its rally will be peaceful and that no attempt will be made to arrest Benedict for alleged “crimes against humanity”.
But Archbishop Smith said: “To be fair to them nobody can guarantee that you are not going to get crackpots and lunatics tagging on to these things and acting individually.”
By Nick Squires in Rome and Martin Beckford
Published: 7:45PM BST 15 Sep 2010
Source: The Telegraph