Public figures hit out at Pope's state visit
Fry, Dawkins and Pullman among more than 50 people to oppose visit in letter to Guardian
Disenchantment at this week’s papal visit intensified today, with more than 50 public figures writing to the Guardian saying that Pope Benedict should not have been given the honour of a state visit.
Stephen Fry, Richard Dawkins, Philip Pullman and Claire Rayner are among those to have signed the letter, which criticises the Vatican’s record on birth control, gay rights and abortion.
The letter comes on the eve of the first formal state visit by a pope since the Reformation.
While the signatories acknowledge the Pope's right to visit Britain as both a European citizen and leader of a religion, they argue that he is also a head of state which has been responsible for, among other things, "opposing the distribution of condoms and so increasing large families in poor countries and the spread of Aids" and "denying abortion to even the most vulnerable women".
Others to sign the letter include the philosopher AC Grayling and the activist Peter Tatchell, a spokesman for Protest the Pope, a campaign which promises to be out in force during Benedict’s visit to London.
They say that the Vatican has resisted signing many major human rights treaties and has formed its own treaties with states which "negatively affect the human rights of citizens of those states".
The letter concludes: "We reject the masquerading of the Holy See as a state, and the Pope as a head of state, as merely a convenient fiction to amplify the international influence of the Vatican".
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