21:29 | 23rd June 2018

Top Feature: Darren Waite

Southwark Archbishop asks to meet Pope protesters

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Protest the Pope spokespeople will hold a press conference on the pavement outside New Scotland Yard on Wednesday 8 September at around 12 noon, immediately after their meeting with the Catholic Archbishop of Southwark, Peter Smith.

The meeting has been called at the Archbishop's request and with the approval of the Catholic hierarchy and Papal visit organisers.

In response to the Archbishop's request for a "neutral" space, New Scotland Yard has agreed to host the meeting. It is being facilitated by Sergeant Nicholas Williams, head of the Met's Communities Together Strategic Engagement Team.

The meeting started today, Wednesday, at 11am.

The Archbishop will meet a delegation of Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society, Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association and Marco Tranchino and Peter Tatchell of the Protest the Pope campaign.

"The Archbishop's fear of unruly demonstrations by the Protest the Pope campaign is ill-founded.

We plan no disruptions," said human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who is also a spokesperson for Protest the Pope.

"When I meet him, I will advise the Archbishop that the best way for the Pope to avoid protests is by dropping his offensive, anti-humanitarian polices, such his opposition to women priests, gay equality, fertility treatment for childless couples and condom use to prevent the spread of HIV. Many people would also like him to reverse his decision to lift the excommunication of the holocaust denier, Bishop Richard Williamson.

"The Pope should apologise for his own personal failure to bring child sex abusers to justice and he should agree to hand over to the relevant police forces worldwide the Vatican's sex abuse files.

"It is no use Benedict meeting victims of priestly sex abuse if he is not willing to hand over his own bulging files on clerical abusers.

"In 2001, when he was a Cardinal, the Pope wrote to every Catholic Bishop in the world, requiring them to report all child sex abuse cases to him in Rome. He cannot claim that he was unaware of the abuse that was happening. His letter did not urge the Bishops to report abusers to the police.

"As the Catholic theologian Hans Kung has said, the Pope bears co-responsibility for inaction and cover-up. That's why he should apologise for his own personal shortcomings, instead of apologising for the behaviour of other clergy," said Mr Tatchell.

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