N.Ireland's Paisley slams pope visit to Britain

2nd July 2010, Comments 0 comments

Former Northern Ireland leader Ian Paisley condemned Friday an invitation for the pope to visit Britain later this year, while slamming child-abusing Catholic priests as "anti-Christ".

The firebrand former Protestant preacher said the decision to invite Pope Benedict XVI to Britain in September was a "mistake."

"I think he should not be invited to the country," the 84-year-old hardliner told the BBC World Service, adding: "I don't know how it has been done because they have had it all secret.

"Nobody knows who made the thing. You go and ask a question of any minister and he says he doesn't want to have anything to do with it. The Queen is only meeting them on Scottish soil, not on English soil."

"I think it's a mistake," he said.

The September 16-19 papal visit to Britain is the first by a pope since 1982, when a six-day tour by John Paul II's drew huge crowds. He was the first pontiff to make the trip for 450 years.

Benedict XVI will be received at the start of his tour by Queen Elizabeth II, the head of the Church of England, in Edinburgh, before travelling to Glasgow and London.

Paisley, who was Northern Ireland's first minister from 2007 to 2008, also lambasted the Vatican's response to child sex abuse scandals which have rocked the Catholic church in a number of countries, including Ireland.

"We have had a terrible happening in Ireland with the priests and monks and nuns all taking part in acts of disgraceful behaviour with young people and we haven't seen the Catholic Church taking a strong stand on this," he said.

And he added: "A person, like some of the priests we've had, destroying the lives of young people and then going out and saying I can forgive sins, it's only right that be called what it is.

"That is anti-Christ in teaching and in doctrine.

Paisley announced in March that he would not stand in May British general elections, winding down a career as a key figure in the long-troubled province's road to peace.

Paisley helped bring stability to Northern Ireland, dogged by three decades of civil unrest known as "the Troubles" until the 1990s, by finally agreeing to share power in the province with one-time arch-enemies Sinn Fein.

© 2010 AFP

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