British protesters press Catholic church before pope visit

8th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Demonstrators protesting against Pope Benedict XVI's state visit to Britain met with a senior archbishop on Wednesday and voiced a demand for action on child abuse within the Roman Catholic Church.

Representatives from Protest the Pope -- a coalition of various groups, including rights activists, secularists, humanists and pro-abortion campaigners -- met with the Archbishop of Southwark, the Most Reverend Peter Smith, at the British police headquarters in London.

The meeting at Scotland Yard was at the archbishop's request.

Smith said he had received a "very clear assurance" that the campaigners have "no intention" of disrupting any of the events during next week's papal visit.

"We had an open and frank discussion on the issues of child abuse, homosexuality and the status of Pope Benedict's visit as a state visit," he said.

"I undertook to report to my fellow bishops the particular concerns raised."

Pope Benedict is due to make the first state visit to Britain by a pontiff with a four-day trip from September 16.

Rights campaigner Peter Tatchell was among the delegation that met Smith.

"We are calling on the pope to open the Vatican's sex abuse files and hand them over to the relevant authorities worldwide. Until he does that, his claim to deplore sex abuse will not be credible," he told AFP.

"We are pleased and reassured that Archbishop Smith agreed to forward our request."

He insisted that the planned demonstrations, including a march through London, would not interfere with the pope's visit.

"We have always been committed to peaceful, lawful protests," he added.

© 2010 AFP

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