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Vatican Shocked at Britain's Hostile Reaction to Pope

Thanks to Bala for the link

The hostility that many British are voicing toward Pope Benedict XVI has shocked church officials in Rome as they prepare for the first formal state visit to Great Britain by a reigning pontiff.

The four-day papal visit, which begins Thursday, has prompted negative reactions by far exceeding anything the Pope has encountered when traveling even to non-Christian countries such as Turkey or Israel.

The protests have ranged from the mean-spirited and the tasteless to the vehemently ideological. Some even called for the Pope's arrest upon his arrival in Edinburgh, Scotland, where Queen Elizabeth II is to greet him.

At the bottom of the scale, the cost of the visit — an estimated 10 million pounds (about 15.4 million U.S. dollars) to British taxpayers — has generated repeated complaints, although such protests are never heard when other heads of state come to Britain.

More seriously, a controversy arose in April after the leak of a joke memo that a junior Foreign Office official had written suggesting that the Pope should bless a gay marriage and open an abortion clinic as part of his official program.

The government offered an apology to the Holy See, but the prank betrayed the sort of ignorant contempt that passes for cleverness in the corridors of power in Britain.

The National Secular Society, an atheist lobby group, has submitted to the government a petition against the papal tour and will demonstrate against the pontiff during the visit. The group's opinions are quoted widely and even promoted in the British press whenever the papal visit is discussed. The society’s protests against Islam, by contrast, seem limited to campaigning against the ritual slaughter of animals.
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