The Northern Ireland-born British Ambassador to the Vatican warned the Pope’s open invitation to disaffected Anglicans could provoke violence against Catholics in the UK, it was revealed today.
The latest diplomatic cables from Wikileaks disclosed that Francis Campbell sounded alarm bells in a private conversation with an American diplomat.
His comments came after Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams was a guest of honour at a dinner with Vatican officials.
According to a cable from Washington’s Vatican embassay, the former Newry man said the Pope had placed Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams in an “impossible situation” and Vatican-Anglican relations were facing their worst crisis in 150 years.
“The Vatican decision seems to have been aimed primarily at Anglicans in the US and Australia, with little thought given to how it would affect the centre of Anglicanism, England, or the Archbishop of Canterbury,” Mr Williams, who has been in his post since 2005, went on.
“Benedict XVI, Campbell said, had put Williams in an impossible situation. If Williams reacted more forcefully, he would destroy decades of work on ecumenical dialogue; by not reacting more harshly, he has lost support among angry Anglicans.
“The crisis is also worrisome for England's small, mostly Irish-origin, Catholic minority, Campbell said. There is still latent anti-Catholicism in some parts of England and it may not take much to set it off.
“The outcome could be discrimination or in isolated cases, even violence, against this minority.”
The cables, which date back to November 2009, also reveal Dr Williams had “challenged” the Catholic Church's position over the ordination of women before the Pope had urged disaffected Anglicans to convert.
Dr Williams' visit to Rome was “cast as positive”, according to the cables, but said “it's clear the wounds from this controversy will affect that dialogue negatively”.