Foreign Office apologises over Pope visit paper

The Foreign Office was forced to issue a public apology after an official document suggested Britain should mark the Pope's visit this year by asking him to open an abortion clinic, bless a gay marriage and launch a range of Benedict-branded condoms.

The document, obtained by the Sunday Telegraph, also suggested Benedict XVI could show his hard line on the sensitive issue of child abuse allegations against Roman Catholic priests by "sacking dodgy bishops" and launching a helpline for abused children.

The ideas were included in a paper titled "The ideal visit would see..." which was distributed to officials in Whitehall and Downing Street preparing for the historic visit in September. A cover note said the paper stemmed from a brainstorming session and accepted that some of the ideas were "far-fetched".

Many of the proposals appeared to mock the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church on issues like abortion, homosexuality and contraception and the difficulties which it is currently experiencing over cases of child abuse.

Last night, the Foreign Office apologised for what it described as a "foolish" document and said the individual responsible had been transferred to other duties.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband was said to have been "appalled" to hear of the paper, and Britain's Ambassador to the Vatican, Francis Campbell, met senior officials of the Holy See to express the Government's regret.

The Foreign Office confirmed that the memo was drawn up by a small group of three or four junior staff in a team working on the papal visit. The document was withdrawn after it was circulated to more senior staff.

A spokesman said that the Foreign Office approached the Vatican and the Catholic Church in England yesterday when it became apparent that its contents had become public.

The memo also suggested that the Pope could apologise for the Spanish Armada or sing a song with the Queen for charity.

And it listed "positive" people who could be attached to the trip, including Tony Blair and TV talent show contestant Susan Boyle, along with others considered "negative", including footballer Wayne Rooney and prominent atheist Richard Dawkins, who threatened to carry out a citizen's arrest on Benedict.

The paper was attached as one of three "background documents" to a memo dated March 5 inviting officials to attend a meeting to discuss themes for the papal visit.

In a note, the official responsible for sending out the memo - a junior civil servant in his 20s - said: "Please protect; these should not be shared externally. The 'ideal visit' paper in particular was the product of a brainstorm which took into account even the most far-fetched of ideas."

An investigation was launched after some recipients of the memo objected to the disrespectful tone of the paper.

A Foreign Office 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, naive and disrespectful.

"The text was not cleared or shown to ministers or senior officials before circulation. As soon as senior officials became aware of the document, it was withdrawn from circulation.

"The individual responsible has been transferred to other duties. He has been told orally and in writing that this was a serious error of judgment and has accepted this view.

"The Foreign Office very much regrets this incident and is deeply sorry for the offence which it has caused. We strongly value the close and productive relationship between the UK Government and the Holy See and look forward to deepening this further with the visit of Pope Benedict to the UK later this year."

Cardinal Renato Martino, former head of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, told the Mail on Sunday: "The British Government has invited the Pope as its guest and he should be treated with respect.

"To make a mockery of his beliefs and the beliefs of millions of Catholics, not just in Britain but across the world, is very offensive indeed."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Life and Style
fashion
News
videoJapanese prepare for the afterlife by testing out coffins
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford attends Blade Runner at Target Presents AFI's Night at the Movies at ArcLight Cinemas on 24 April, 2013 in Hollywood, California
film... but Ridley Scott won't direct
Sport
Hughes is hit by a bouncer from Sean Abbott
cricketStephen Brenkley on batsman's tragic flaw that led to critical injury
Sport
Dejected England players applaud the fans following their team's 3-0 defeat
football

News
people

Actress isn't a fan of Ed Miliband

Life and Style
Stefan Gates with some mince flies
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Rooney Mara plays a white Tiger Lily in forthcoming film Pan
filmFirst look at Rooney Mara in Pan
Life and Style
Customers browse through Vinyl Junkies record shop in Berwick Street, Soho, London
tech
Life and Style
health

Do you qualify – and how do you get it?

Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Langley James : Senior Infrastructure Engineer; VMWare, Windows; Bolton; £40k

£40000 per annum + benefits: Langley James : Senior Infrastructure Engineer; V...

h2 Recruit Ltd: BDD - Digital Banking Technology / CEM - £150k ote

£75000 - £100000 per annum + £150k ote: h2 Recruit Ltd: There are many compani...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Graduate Consultant - Sales Recruitment - £35k ote

£18000 - £25000 per annum + £35k ote: h2 Recruit Ltd: Looking for your first s...

Recruitment Genius: Advertising Media Sales - Print, Online & Mobile

£19000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This publishing house has been ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital