Opinion Former Article

BHA: Protest the Pope campaign

The Protest the Pope campaign will hold a press conference at 3pm on Tuesday 14 September at Conway Hall in central London, to further outline its protest plans and its charges against Pope Benedict XVI.

Speakers at the press conference include the feminist writer Joan Smith, Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society, Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association and Marco Tranchino and Peter Tatchell of the Protest the Pope campaign.

Speaking in advance of Tuesday's press conference, Andrew Copson Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association said:

"The idea that the Holy See is a state and the Pope a head of state is nothing more than a device to amplify the influence of the Vatican on the international stage. The Holy See uses this influence to undermine the reproductive and sexual health rights of men and women, and the human rights of women, children and gay people, among others. The Pope as head of the Holy See is not worthy of the honour of a state visit to our country."

Marco Tranchino, co-organiser of the Protest the Pope campaign said:

"On Saturday 18th of September, we will assemble at 1.30 pm at Hyde Park Corner, march through central London and conclude our protest with a rally opposite Downing Street. We will tell our Government that it should not honour the Pope as a Head of State. The Vatican must not be allowed to consolidate its influence. In a liberal society, no religious leader should be permitted to attack our equality laws without challenge and no religious leader should have privileged, undemocratic influence on our political leaders."

Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society said:

"The cost of this visit to the taxpayer will run into tens of millions of pounds, at a time when the Government is about to announce 25% cuts in public spending. If the Pope really cared about poverty - and these Government cuts will hurt the poorest in our society - he would offer to pay his own way from his church's fantastic wealth."

Peter Tatchell, a spokesperson for the Protest the Pope campaign, added:

"The Protest the Pope campaign deplores Benedict XVI's refusal to hand over the Vatican's sex abuse files to police forces worldwide and his decision to welcome back into the church the holocaust denying Bishop, Richard Williamson.

"We are calling on the British government to disassociate itself from the Pope's opposition to women's rights, contraception, gay equality, fertility treatment, embryonic stem cell research and the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV. On these and many other issues, Benedict is out of step with the majority of British people, including many Catholics.

"It is hypocritical for the Pope to attack Britain's equality laws, as he did earlier this year, while happily accepting hospitality and funding from the British people and government.

"We object to parts of his visit is being funded by the taxpayer.
Public funding is not appropriate. The British government doesn't fund visits by the Grand Mufti of Mecca or the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem.

Why should the Pope get privileged financial support?

"In 2001, when he was a Cardinal, the Pope wrote to every Catholic bishop in the world, ordering them to report all child sex abuse cases to him in Rome. They did. He cannot claim that he was unaware of sex abuse. His letter demanded 'Papal secrecy.' It did not advise the bishops to report abusers to the police.

"Even today, the Pope refuses to open the Vatican's sex abuse files and hand them to the relevant police forces worldwide. Many people see his inaction as collusion with sex crimes against children. Such a person should not be feted by our government," said Mr Tatchell.

More Information:

Peter Tatchell - 0207 403 1790

Details of the Protest the Pope march and rally on 18 September:
www.protest-the-pope.org.uk

Info about all other Protest the Pope events:
www.protest-the-pope.org.uk

The home page of Protest the Pope is here:
www.protest-the-pope.org.uk

More Information:

Terry Sanderson - 07990 677 915

Andrew Copson - 07534 248 596

Peter Tatchell - 0207 403 1790
SENT ON BEHALF OF THE PROTEST THE POPE CAMPAIGN

Naomi Phillips
Head of Public Affairs
British Humanist Association (BHA)

1 Gower Street, London WC1E 6HD
Tel: 020 7079 3585
Mob: 07540 257101
Fax: 020 7079 3588

www.humanism.org.uk

Find us on social networking sites via www.humanism.org.uk

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