A homophobic Cardinal who said that England was a “Third World country” will no longer join the Pope on his tour of the UK following outrage over the comments.
Cardinal Walter Kasper (77) made the offensive statements in an interview with German news magazine Focus ahead of the Pope’s visit.
Discussing the multiculturalism of England, Kasper said that “England is a secularised, pluralistic country these days. When you land at Heathrow Airport, you sometimes think you might have landed in a Third World country.”
He said that Britain faced an “aggressive new atheism” and that “Christians were at a disadvantage” and further claimed that when a person wears a cross on British Airways “you are discriminated against”.
Kasper who has previously described homosexuality as “disordered” also commented on Protestant churches: “They have married priests and women priests, too. Are they doing better? The Church of England has also taken on terrible problems with these developments. I wouldn’t wish those problems on my church.”
The comments have outraged the British public. The Vatican said that Kasper dropped out of the Papal visit because he is “ill”.
“The attributed comments of Cardinal Kasper do not represent the views of the Vatican, nor those of bishops in this country,” commented a spokesman for the Catholic Church in England and Wales.
“This is another own goal from the Vatican. It shows just how out of touch the Pope and his entourage are. Most Catholics will be appalled by the remarks,” said gay rights activist Peter Tatchell, who is also part of a campaign opposing the Pontiff’s visit.
In a letter issued yesterday, 50 leading Britons, including Stephen Fry, author Terry Pratchett and scientist Richard Dawkins, said that while the Pope should be free to come to the UK, he should not be accorded a state visit that is partly funded by public money.
Pope Benedict XVI will visit England and Scotland from today until 19 September.