Britain apologises for 'foolish' pope vist document

25th April 2010, Comments 0 comments

Britain's Foreign Office issued a public apology Saturday after an official document suggested the pope should open an abortion clinic and bless a gay marriage during his visit later this year.

The document, obtained by the Sunday Telegraph newspaper, also suggested Pope Benedict XVI should launch a range of branded condoms and show a hard line on child abuse by Catholic priests by "sacking dodgy bishops".

The ideas were included in a paper titled "The ideal visit would see..." which was distributed to government officials preparing for the visit scheduled for September.

A cover note said the paper was produced in a brainstorming session and accepted that some of the ideas were "far-fetched".

The Foreign Office apologised for what it described as a "foolish" document and said the individual responsible -- a junior civil servant in his 20s -- had been transferred to other duties.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband was said to have been "appalled", and Britain's Ambassador to the Vatican, Francis Campbell, has met senior officials of the Holy See to express the government's regret.

The paper was attached as one of three "background documents" to a memo dated March 5 inviting officials to attend a meeting to discuss themes for the papal visit.

In a note, the official responsible for sending out the memo said: "Please protect; these should not be shared externally. The 'ideal visit' paper in particular was the product of a brainstorm which took into account even the most far-fetched of ideas."

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "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, naive 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 As soon as senior officials became aware of the document, it was withdrawn from circulation.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 Foreign Office very much regrets this incident and is deeply sorry for the offence which it has caused."

gj /ach

© 2010 AFP

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