A former leading member of the Orange Order has said a call from the Grand Lodge for a protest against the Pope’s visit to the UK has “rescued the Catholic Church”.
The Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, the ruling council of the Order, has urged UK citizens to demonstrate against Pope Benedict during his scheduled visit to the UK in September.
The Pope will visit England, Wales and Scotland in September, in the first official papal visit to the UK.
Yesterday, Presbyterian Minister the Rev Brian Kennaway, referring to the child sex abuse scandal that has brought the Catholic Church to its knees, said the Orange statement will “go down in history as the time the Orange Order rescued the Pope”.
“There is already a swell of opinion against the Papacy, now they (the Orange Order) are highlighting something that is perceived to be purely sectarian and they are taking the heat off the Catholic Church.”
The statement issued by the Grand Orange Lodge also expressed opposition to any potential papal visit to Northern Ireland, but called on its own members “to refrain from any uncharitable acts or sentiments against our Roman Catholic fellow countrymen”.
The statement reads: “While we recognise the civil and religious rights of all, we cannot welcome or agree with the visit of the Pope to this country.”
It also claimed that “the teaching of the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church is at total variance with the Biblical message that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone”.
Sinn Fein MLA Daithi McKay accused the Orange Order of being “firmly in the camp of the British far right”.
“The mask has clearly slipped and the recent public relations efforts of the Order now lie in tatters,” he said.