Saturday 24 February 2018

Offensive condom memo threatens Pope's UK visit

Gordon Rayner and Nick Pisa in Rome

THE POPE could cancel his planned state visit to Britain because of the "hugely offensive" Foreign Office memo mocking his stance on abortion and birth control, Vatican sources said yesterday.

Senior papal aides suggested the British Foreign Office had not taken sufficiently strong disciplinary action against those responsible for the document, which joked that the Pope should open an abortion clinic, bless a homosexual marriage and launch his own range of condoms during his four-day visit in September.

The memo was sent to Downing Street and three Whitehall departments by Steven Mulvain, a 23-year-old civil servant who once described his hobby as "drinking a lot".

There have been no sackings as a result.

The more senior civil servant who authorised the memo has been moved to other duties.

One highly placed source in the Vatican said: "This could have very severe repercussions. It is disgusting. It's even possible the trip could be cancelled as this matter is hugely offensive."

Britain's ambassador to the Vatican attended an urgent meeting with senior officials of the Holy See to relay an apology after the document was leaked to newspapers.

The British Foreign Office has also apologised, saying it was "deeply sorry for the offence which it has caused".

But senior papal aides are particularly outraged that the British Foreign Office does not consider the matter serious enough to warrant anyone being sacked.

Mr Mulvain has escaped punishment because he was given authorisation to send the memo by the more senior civil servant.

Cardinal Renato Martino, a former head of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said: "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. . . is very offensive indeed."

The memo was sent out in March following a "brainstorm" session by four junior British Foreign Office staff who make up the papal visit team.

Ivor Roberts, Britain's former ambassador to Italy, said the incident was "rather sad" and "very puerile". (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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