The UK’s Ambassador to the Holy See, Co Down man Francis Campbell, has had to defuse a potentially explosive diplomatic scandal involving a mischievous memo and Pope Benedict.
The Foreign Office has apologised for a “foolish” document which suggested the Pope's visit to the UK could be marked by the launch of “Benedict” condoms. Called “The ideal visit would see...”, it said the Pope could be invited to open an abortion clinic and bless a gay marriage during his four-day visit to England in September.
The March memo was written by junior Foreign Office workers after a ‘brainstorming’ session over an itinerary for the ideal papal visit.
The Foreign Office said the junior civil servant who had written the paper, which was circulated to Government departments and leaked to a Sunday newspaper, had been moved to other duties.
Francis Campbell, Britain’s ambassador to the Vatican and a native of Rathfriland, is reported to have been sent to the Vatican to apologise on behalf of the Foreign Office.
Father Edward McGee, a spokesman for the Down and Connor diocese, said: “I think the Foreign Office have been in contact with the Vatican and Francis Campbell has been speaking to apologise for the memo. I will be waiting to see what the response to that will be from the Vatican.”
A Foreign Office statement said: “This is clearly a foolish document that does not in any way reflect UK Government or Foreign Office policy or views. Many of the ideas in the document are clearly ill-judged, naive and disrespectful. The text was not cleared or shown to ministers or senior officials before circulation.”
The Vatican has not made an official comment but Cardinal Renato Martino, former head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said: “The British Government has invited the Pope as its guest and he should be treated with respect. To make a mockery of his beliefs and the beliefs of millions of Catholics, not just in Britain but across the world, is very offensive indeed.”