Facebook group demands Pope pay for his UK trip
Benedict XVI is beset on all sides by Facebook protests, condom machines and his chief exorcist
A Facebook group opposing Pope Benedict XVI's state visit to Britain later this year – the first papal trip to the UK since 1982 – has now attracted 4,000 members, after a petition of more than 28,000 signatures asking the Prime Minister not to fund the trip was handed in to Downing Street last week.
The online group's organisers are opposed to British taxpayers footing the bill for the Pope's visit. "The Pope spreads hate; we hate that," says a statement on their site. They add that they "endeavour to ensure that this site is not anti-Catholic, just anti-Vatican", and say they delete "any violent statements" or "sectarian nonsense". The web pages feature a parody of the Barack Obama 'Hope' poster, subsitutuing the word 'Nope'.
Last week's petition, organised by the National Secular Society, said the signatories accepted Benedict's right to visit the UK, but asked the Catholic Church to "relieve the taxpayer of the estimated £20m cost". Another petition, started online by civil rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, calls on Gordon Brown to distance the UK from the Pope's stance on "women's reproductive rights, gay equality, embryonic stem cell research and the use of condoms".
At home in Italy too, Pope Benedict is facing dissent. The Vatican was said yesterday to be "deeply concerned" over the news that a secondary school in Rome has installed condom machines in its toilets. Pupils of the Kepler scientific school, both girls and boys, can now buy cheap condoms anonymously just a few miles from Vatican City.
Despite suggestions five years ago when Benedict first became Pope of a thaw in the Church's staunch opposition to contraceptives, the Vatican condemned the news yesterday. Speaking for the Pope, Cardinal Agostino Vallini accused the school of "trivialising sexuality".
The condom machine may be the least of Benedict's problems: scandals over physical and sexual abuse in Catholic institutions in Ireland, Holland and most recently Germany have now been described by his chief exorcist, Father Gabriel Amorth (pictured, above right), as evidence that the Devil is in the Vatican.
The 84-year-old, who was the inspiration for the young priest in the 1973 horror film The Exorcist, told La Repubblica newspaper: "The Devil lives in the Vatican. He has won over the confidences of people. Naturally it's difficult to find proof but the consequences are visible."
"The Devil is invisible," he added. "Sometimes he makes fun of me but I have to say I enjoy my work." Speaking of his career as an exorcist, he told the paper: "From the mouths of the possessed people all sorts of things come out, bits of metal as long as a finger, rose petals. I have to have help holding them down and wiping up the saliva..." He did not mention any specific plans to carry out exorcisms in the Vatican.
But there is one ray of sunshine for the Pope: he learned last month he had been nominated for a Classical Brit for the album Alma Mater - Music From the Vatican, which features his voice. Online voting is open until April 23 and Benedict will find out if he has won at a ceremony in the Albert Hall on May 13. ·
Comments are now closed on this article