Top Scottish Catholic urges apology for 'Third World' remark

16th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

The head of the Catholic Church in Scotland urged a Vatican prelate to apologise for comments in which he reportedly likened Britain to a "Third World country" ahead of the pope's visit.

"That was unfortunate and each and every person's aides sometimes do make awkward, difficult remarks. Sometimes we make awkward, difficult remarks ourselves," Cardinal Keith O'Brien told the BBC.

"And simply, if we do that sort of thing we apologise for it, and I'm sure Cardinal (Walter) Kasper will apologise for any intemperate remarks which he made some time ago."

Kasper was due to accompany Pope Benedict XVI on his four-day state visit to England and Scotland which began Thursday, but begged off for "health reasons". British press reports said he was dropped from the delegation.

Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols, the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, said Kasper's comments were "quite inexplicable".

"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," he told the BBC.

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 British newspapers on Thursday, with one, the tabloid Daily Mail, headlining: "What an unholy welcome to Britain!".

© 2010 AFP

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