Sectarian British memo leaked

Britain has apologised to the Vatican for a memorandum by a team of civil servants at its foreign office mocking Pope Benedict ahead of his scheduled visit to England in September.

The document, which was leaked to the Sunday Telegraph newspaper, included “proposals” that the pope’s visit should include the opening of a hospital abortion ward and the launch of papal-branded condoms.

It also suggested that the pope should bless a gay marriage and made other comments ridiculing the teachings of the Catholic Church against abortion and contraception. The paper said it had resulted from a “brainstorming” session at Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) ahead of the pope’s visit.

British officials later denied that a sectarian agenda operated within the civil service. It described the memo as “a foolish document that does not in any way reflect UK government policy or views”.

The proposals, drawn up by a junior civil servant in a memo headlined “The ideal visit would see ...”, were circulated among officials in prime minister Gordon Brown’s Downing Street office and at the foreign office.

The memo also suggested that the Pope could apologise for the Spanish Armada or sing a song with the Queen for charity.

It also listed “positive” people who could be attached to the trip, including Tony Blair and well-known talent show contestant Susan Boyle, along with others considered “negative”, including footballer Wayne Rooney. Both Boyle and Rooney have Irish-Catholic backgrounds, while Blair converted to Catholicism three years ago.

The document had a cover note admitting that some of the plans were “far-fetched”.

The foreign office spokesman said no ministers had been shown the document and that it had been withdrawn.

“The FCO very much regrets this incident and is deeply sorry for the offence which it has caused. We strongly value the close and productive relationship between the UK government and the Holy See and look forward to deepening this further with the visit of Pope Benedict to the UK later this year.”

Pope Benedict’s trip from September 16th to 19th will be the first papal visit to Britain since 1982. He is due to meet the queen and the Archbishop of Canterbury, spiritual head of the Anglican Church.

Late last month, the Orange Order and other masonic organisations in England have said they will mount demonstrations against the visit.

Cardinal Renato Martino, former head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said: “The British government has invited the Pope as its guest and he should be treated with respect.

“To make a mockery of his beliefs and the beliefs of millions of Catholics, not just in Britain but across the world, is very offensive indeed.”

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