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Ministers apologise for insult to Pope

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-The astonishing proposals, leaked to The Sunday Telegraph, were contained in secret papers drawn up earlier this month by senior civil servants following a 'brainstorm’.

The ideas, included in a memo headed 'The ideal visit would see ...’, ridiculed the Catholic Church’s teachings including its opposition to abortion, homosexual behaviour and contraception. Many appeared to be deliberately provocative rather than a serious attempt to plan an itinerary for the September visit.

The proposals, which were then circulated among key officials in Downing Street and Whitehall, also include the Pope opening an abortion ward; spending the night in a council flat in Bradford; doing forward rolls with children to promote healthy living; and even performing a duet with the Queen.

In reference to the hugely sensitive issue of child abuse engulfing the Catholic Church, the Government document suggests that the Pope should take a “harder line on child abuse – announce sacking of dodgy bishops” and “launch helpline for abused children”.

The document was sent out by a junior Foreign Office civil servant with a covering note admitting that some of the plans were “far-fetched”.

Recipients of the memo were furious at its content and an investigation was launched. One senior official was found responsible and has been transferred to other duties.

Yesterday the Foreign Office issued a public apology after being approached by The Sunday Telegraph, while Francis Campbell, the UK ambassador to the Vatican, met senior officials of the Holy See to express the Government’s regret.
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