British Catholics positive about pope visit: poll

12th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

British Catholics are confident that this week's visit by Pope Benedict XVI will help the church in Britain, but the sex abuse scandal has shaken their faith in him, a new BBC poll showed Sunday.

The survey of 500 Catholics also revealed that British believers are more liberal than the pope, with almost half backing a relaxing of the rules on clerical celibacy and a majority wanting a larger role for women in the church.

Some 52 percent of those questioned by ComRes between September 6 and 9 said the worldwide scandal over sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy had shaken their faith in the church's leadership.

However, 70 percent thought the pope's four-day visit to England and Scotland, which begins on Thursday, would help the Catholic Church in Britain, an officially Anglican country.

A further 57 percent said their faith was not generally valued by British society, while 30 percent said it was and 13 percent did not know.

The poll also revealed significant support for the pope to drop his insistence on clerical celibacy -- 49 percent said the rule should be relaxed, although 35 percent supported the rule and 17 percent were uncommitted.

In addition, 62 percent of respondents said women should have more authority and status in the Catholic church.

Protests are being planned for the pope's visit because of his stance on women, homosexuals and contraception.

He has also faced criticism for his response to the abuse scandal, although supporters say he has a good record on dealing with the issue.

"Overall there is a sense of strong support for the pope's visit but disquiet both about some aspects of Papal teaching and the perception of the Catholic Church in wider society having been harmed," ComRes chairman Andrew Hawkins told the BBC.

© 2010 AFP

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