Pope visit ‘a fantasy’ - DUP
Pope visit ‘a fantasy’ - DUP

British government representatives in Rome have been investigating the possibility of a simultaneous visit to the North of Ireland by Pope Benedict and England’s Queen Elizabeth, according to reports.

Such a visit, possibly in the spring months of next year, would be presented as a culmination to the current peace process.

On Thursday night the British ambassador to the Vatican, Francis Campbell, hosted a dinner for some of the North’s Catholic bishops, including the Catholic primate of all-Ireland, Archbishop Sean Brady.

Irish bishops from both sides of the Border were visiting Rome as part of a visit by the Irish Bishops’ Conference to the Vatican.

But the DUP has said unionists could not welcome a visit by the pope to the North of Ireland at this time.

The DUP’s Gregory Campbell said the idea was “bizarre” and added that he suspected political motivations.

Campbell took the leading role in corresponding with the Catholic hierarchy before Paisley’s historic meeting with Archbishop Brady, the head of the Catholic church, in recent weeks. Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams later held a reciprocal meeting with Robin Eames, the head of the Protestant Church of Ireland.

“People are looking over the next few months and are assuming that sufficient progress is going to be made to announce a deal,” Campbell said.

“(They) are then saying - what would be a tremendously symbolic way of promoting a deal and putting a seal on it and they have come up with this fantasist idea.

“I cannot see how it can possibly work.”

There were also private warnings that Ian Paisley could refuse to meet the Pope, a potential embarrasssment for al sides.

Paisley considers the Pope to be the anti-Christ and has equated the Catholic church with the “whore of Babylon” from the bible’s Book of Revelation.

Urgent Appeal

Despite increasing support for Irish freedom and unity, we need your help to overcome British and unionist intransigence. We can end the denial of our rights in relation to Brexit, the Irish language, a border poll and legacy issues, with your support.

Please support IRN now to help us continue reporting and campaigning for our national rights. Even one pound a month can make a big difference for us.

Your contribution can be made with a credit or debit card by clicking below. A continuing monthly donation of £2 or more will give you full access to this site. Thank you. Go raibh míle maith agat.

© 2006 Irish Republican News