Thousands rally during papal visit
By Anna Frey
Thousands of people gathered in London in protest of the Pope as the spiritual leader arrived in Britain over the weekend on the first papal visit since Pope John Paul II’s trip in 1982.
An estimated 20,000 people showed up in demonstration against the Pope, according to organisers of Protest the Pope, the large anti-Pope rally.
People were protesting the church’s views on women’s rights, homosexuality and segregated education as well as their stance on birth control. “The Pope’s opposition to condoms kills people,” comedian Al Murray, who was involved in the protest, said according to the BBC. “It’s all very well him lecturing us on morals but he should look at his own organisation’s view.”
Pope Benedict XVI was in Britain on a four-day state visit aimed to address the recent allegations of child abuse within the Church, meet with the Queen and end with the beatification of British Cardinal John Henry Newman.
“We are here today to celebrate our faith in liberty of conscience,” human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson said to the BBC at the protest. “What is civilised about demeaning women [and] demonising homosexuals? Our only crime has been silence.”
According to the CBC, police in London arrested six men on Friday in relation to a potential threat towards the Pope. No information has been released about the suspects, and none of the Pope’s plans changed due to these events. All six men have since been released without charges.
Security costs related to the visit skyrocketed higher than expected, from the allotted 20 million pounds to over 31 million, with over half of that amount coming solely from government funding.
“We object to the fact that this visit has been funded by the taxpayer at the public expense,” said Peter Tatchell, the spokesman for the Protest the Pope group, to CNN. “We do not as a country fund visits by the Grand Mufti of Mecca, or the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, so why should the Pope’s visit receive privileged financial support?”
Though Pope John Paul II visited Britain 28 years ago, this most recent visit by Pope Benedict XVI is considered to be the first state visit by a pope, since he arrived at the invitation of the Queen, not of the Catholic Church.