Paisley: Pope being treated ‘like a king’

by Peter Wozniak

The Pope’s state visit to the UK ought to be cancelled, the reverend and former MP Ian Paisley has said.

The staunchly protestant preacher for the Free Presbyterian Church in Northern Ireland railed against the welcome being laid out for the head of the Catholic church for his state visit on September 18th.

“They are receiving him as a king. He’s not a king,” he said in an interview with Sky News.

“When the Roman Catholic people are torn asunder because of this matter that the Pope has in many ways closed an eye to, it is time for the Protestant people also to support them.”

Mr Paisley’s statements are unlikely to come as a surprise given his long-argued criticism of the Catholic Church, but will add some weight to protests scheduled for the day of the Pope’s visit.

Protest groups, which include many secular and humanist groups, argue that given that the Pontiff is first and foremost a religious leader, he should not be afforded the funding or pomp and circumstance that accompanies a traditional state visit, despite the fact that Pope Benedict is the head of state of the Vatican City.

The campaign group ‘Protest the Pope’ also claims that the Catholic church’s stance on matters such as abortion and the use of condoms ought to preclude any public funds being used for the Pope’s reception.

Mr Paisley added in the interview that he had spoken to former prime minister Tony Blair before his conversion to Catholicism, saying: “I was the last Protestant minister that spoke to the prime minister the night before he was made a Roman Catholic.

“He turned to me and said ‘I will be a Roman Catholic tonight’.

“Well, I said I was going to say a few things and I said them – as a real Christian – because this was a matter of eternity.”

The Pope’s state visit is set for Saturday 18th September, with a simultaneous protest march from Hyde Park to Downing Street.