Church Leader Heads Pope Protest

September 12, 2010

The leader of the Free Presbyterian Church will lead a delegation to Scotland this week to protest over Pope Benedict XVI's trip to Britain.

It is the first state visit to the UK by a Pontiff.

Thousands of people are expected to line the streets during his four-day trip to Edinburgh, Glasgow, London and Birmingham.

The Reverend Ron Johnson is challenging other Protestant church leaders to join their protest.

"We're simply restating the creeds of the historical Protestant churches.

"Really every Protestant church in Northern Ireland ought to be supporting our stand. Sadly I know all ministers will not - but they're going against their ordination vows."

The Pope's visit comes as the Catholic Church struggles to deal with the long shadow cast by the worldwide clerical sex abuse scandal.

The ongoing crisis blew up again last year with the publication of two harrowing reports into years of sexual and physical abuse of children by priests and nuns in Ireland.

The first revealed that the Church and the Irish Government covered up decades of sexual abuse and beatings of thousands of children in state care.

The second inquiry found the Catholic hierarchy in Ireland was granted immunity to cover up child sex abuse among paedophile priests in Dublin.

The horrors revealed in Ireland were to lead the Pope to issue a pastoral letter to Irish Catholics in which he apologised to the victims of paedophile priests in the country.

The Pope too was not immune from the tidal wave of criticism, focusing on allegations about his handling of three cases - two in the US and one in his native Germany - during his time as Archbishop of Munich and as head of the powerful Vatican watchdog, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The Catholic Church has not ruled out a meeting between the Pope and victims of abuse during his visit to Britain. A spokesman said if such a meeting took place, it would be held in private away from the glare of the media.

Any original material on these pages is copyright 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.