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article imageUK apologizes to Pope after memo suggests ‘Benedict condoms’

By Andrew John     Apr 25, 2010 in World
Britain’s Foreign Office has apologized to the Pope after a memo suggesting he could open an abortion clinic and bless a gay marriage when he visits the country in September.
The document, which also suggested the event could launch a range of “Benedict condoms,” emerged from a brainstorming session among officials, reports the Telegraph, to which the document was leaked.
It’s headed “The ideal visit would see . . .” and has on it items such as “Launch of ‘Benedict’ condoms,” “Open an abortion ward,” “Bless a civil partnership” and “Reverse policy on women bishops/ordain woman.”
Less whimsical items include “Review of Vatican attitude on condom use,” “Training course for all bishops on child abuse allegations,” and “Meet young unemployed people.”
The shortest suggestion simply says, “Apologise for . . .”
The Telegraph says: “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.”
The document also suggests that the Pope should take a “harder line on child abuse,” announce the sacking of “dodgy bishops” and announce a “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’,” says the paper.
The Foreign Office has now issued a public apology to Pope Benedict (a.k.a. Joseph Ratzinger) and the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, has said he was “appalled.”
A Foreign Office spokesman is quoted as saying: “This is clearly a foolish document that does not in any way reflect UK Government or Foreign Office policy or views. Many of the ideas in the document are clearly ill-judged, naïve and disrespectful.
“The text was not cleared or shown to Ministers or senior officials before circulation. As soon as senior officials became aware of the document, it was withdrawn from circulation.
“The individual responsible has been transferred to other duties. He has been told orally and in writing that this was a serious error of judgement and has accepted this view.
Astonished and angered
“The Foreign Office very much regrets this incident and is deeply sorry for the offence which it has caused.”
The newspaper also quotes Malcolm McMahon, Roman Catholic Bishop of Nottingham, who said he was astonished and angered by the proposals.
“This is appalling. You don’t invite someone to your country and then disrespect them in this way. It’s outlandish and outrageous to assume that any of the ideas are in any way suitable for the Pope.”
The news will delight many campaigners who have called for the state visit to be demoted to a pastoral visit, thereby shifting the cost onto the Catholic Church. As a state visit, it could cost the British taxpayer up to £20 million, plus costs for security paid out of existing police funds.
Recently, the atheist authors Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens put their weight behind a plan to have the Pope arrested when he gets to Britain and charged under international law with crimes against humanity. As a cardinal, Ratzinger is said to have covered up instances of child abuse by priests and putting the name of the church before justice for victims.
More about Pope, Apologizes pope, Apology, Ratzinger, Sunday telegraph