Top English Catholic says cardinal comments 'inexplicable'
The head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales described as "inexplicable" Thursday reported comments by a cardinal who likened Britain to a "Third World country" ahead of the pope's visit here.
"On face value I find the remarks of Cardinal (Walter) Kasper quite inexplicable," Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols told the BBC.
"This is a very diverse country and we rejoice in that diversity. There's a great richness of people and of cultures and of contributions made in British society and they are an enrichment."
Kasper was due to accompany Pope Benedict XVI on his four-day state visit to England and Scotland which begins Thursday, but begged off for "health reasons". British press reports said he was dropped from the delegation.
In an interview with the German magazine Focus, the cardinal was asked why so many Britons opposed the pontiff's visit, only the second since English king Henry VIII broke with Rome to form the Church of England in 1534.
Kasper replied: "England is a secularised, pluralistic country these days. When you land at Heathrow Airport, you sometimes think you might have landed in a Third World country."
The remarks were splashed across the British newspapers on Thursday, with one, the tabloid Daily Mail, headlining: "What an unholy welcome to Britain!".
© 2010 AFP