Pope Benedict XVI's state visit: A welcome visitor or an unholy guest?

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The Independent Online

Ann Widdecombe

Catholic and former Tory minister

"The cost of this visit is entirely justified – it's the first state visit for 500 years. There's undeniably more hostility towards the Catholic Church than there has been in recent decades. What we have now is a particularly militant form of atheism. I'm tired of hearing that the church should be 'dealing with a scandal' it has already dealt with."

Gauri Das

Adviser at the Hindu Forum of Britain

"In the past, perhaps, people were more enthusiastic about the Pope. Now they're more cautious. The church has faced a lot of difficulties over time. It's hard even for the most faithful Catholics to remain that way now. My father is 81, and has been a devout Catholic all his life. He admires the Pope, but yesterday even he was cautious about being honorific towards him. I think he feels there's a certain level of evil in the church, though there's also a lot of beauty in the faith.

A N Wilson


"The cost to the taxpayer is certainly not justified. Given the current Pope's unpopularity at the moment and the 'shady period' that the Catholic Church is currently undergoing it would have been much more tactful to cancel the visit."

Tony Green

The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement

"Although we are not going to be actively involved in the protests, this does not necessarily mean that we are condoning the visit. As a people of faith, LGCM want to make our voice heard in appropriate ways and to speak the language of the church. While some of our membership have been hurt by the church, they have chosen to remain with the church. As such we recognise the cultural and spiritual significance of this visit."

Julia Stonor

Catholic writer

"I regret the reasons for the current hostility towards the Catholic Church and feel the church should have apologised more and should do more to help the abuse victims."

A C Grayling

Atheist philosopher

"I hope the child abuse scandal has overshadowed this visit. Any church organisation exists to put across its views. When a church does charitable work it should not be praised – it is merely doing what it says on the tin. But when an institution that flaunts its moral standing systematically hides serious crimes, it shows that they are more interested in protecting their own back than furthering their ideals."

Paul Handley

Editor of the Church Times

"The danger of this visit is that it could undermine the 'common ground' approach of the English Roman Catholic Church, where Christians and non-Christians work together. By taking on the secularists the Pope risks drawing the Church into a slanging match with a handful of campaigners "

Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner

North Western Reform Synagogue

"If the Pope is to enable victims of abuse to embark on a process of healing, then I hope he uses the opportunity of his visit here for unambiguous public acts of repentance and acknowledgement of victims' pain."

Stuart Reid

Catholic writer

"There is more organised hostility towards Catholics now compared to before. That's still very active, and that gets directed towards the Pope. I suspect a lot of those who feel that way about Catholicism feel that way because they resent its stance on sexuality. So a lot of it comes from general ignorance and some comes from natural prejudice."

Baroness Shirley Williams

Lib Dem peer and Catholic

"Pope Benedict is primarily a theologian and an administrator, rather than a preacher and politician (as John Paul II was). I consider him to be a holy and humble man and a thinker and I hope his visit will help to overcome hostility."

Syed Tohel

Islamic Forum of Europe

"I don't think Catholics in Britain feel any differently to the Pope than they did 30 years ago. He promotes understanding of religion, so he's very welcome by us. There are a lot of commonalities between the two faiths. If the visit unites faiths then there's a benefit."

Clifford Longley

Catholic author

"There's now a rise of more aggressive secular feeling against Catholicism and the Pope too. The Pope is not personally responsible for child abuse within the church. He cannot take the blame. "

Michael Evans

Bishop of East Anglia

"People know Catholics through the media, and the media have produced a distorted image. The Pope has been invited by the state and has opinions on climate change, justice, the state; but people just want to talk about that child abuse thing."