Vatican accepts apology over ‘Benedict’ condoms
He could open an abortion clinic or bless a gay marriage said the Foreign Office’s ‘brainstorm’ memo
A Foreign Office memo which suggested the Pope's visit to Britain later this summer could be marked by the launch of 'Benedict' brand condoms, or even the papal opening of an abortion clinic, will have no impact on the event, the Vatican has insisted.
Grovelling apologies made on behalf of the UK government appear to have done the trick. Despite reports at the weekend that the visit might now be in jeopardy, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi now says: "For us the case is closed."
The facetious ideas came out of a brainstorming session where junior civil servants at the FO were asked to start thinking of good ideas to make the papal visit in September go with a swing.
Among other ideas put forward were that Pope Benedict should bless a gay marriage or "launch a helpline for abused children" - a clear reference to the ongoing controversy over the history of child abuse by Roman Catholic clergy.
It is still unclear how the memo came to be circulated. But the government's effort to apologise was spectacular, which it needed to be, given that the Pope is only coming because he was invited to do so by Gordon Brown.
Foreign Secretary David Miliband let it be known that he was "appalled" to learn about the memo, while the British ambassador to the Vatican, Francis Campbell, quickly met with the Pope's advisors to express the government's regret.
As for the disgraced Foreign Office, a spokesman 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, naïve or disrespectful."
However, the person responsible has not been sacked. Instead, they have apparently had their wrist slapped and "been transferred to other duties".
Some Catholics are saying that the fact that such a memo could get written at all, even jokingly, suggests an anti-Catholic "mindset" within the corridors of power. The memo came to light just days after all three party leaders in the second televised election debate were asked about the Pope's visit to Britain and came up with similar answers: that they welcomed his visit but disagreed fundamentally with many of his teachings on birth control, abortion and homosexuality.
Meanwhile, it is reported that Pope Benedict is to make an historical general apology on behalf of Rome for the many cases of child abuse by Catholic clergy across the world. The apology is expected to be delivered when thousands of clergy gather at the Vatican on June 9-11 to mark the climax of the International Year for Priests. ·
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