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It seems likely that Pope Benedict will be visiting the West Midlands during his UK visit this year. Dave Woodhall wonders whether this will be such a good idea.

The news that Pope Benedict will be coming to Britain in September was no doubt greeted warmly by Catholics throughout the nation.

The latest indications, that he will visit the West Midlands during his stay, will be particularly welcomed by the local tourist industry. When Pope John Paul II held a Mass at Coventry Airport in 1982 there were 300,000 in attendance.

Popes are big business; bigger even than U2, although Bono would reckon to have a hotter line to the Almighty than God’s self-proclaimed representative on earth.

While the arrival of the Pope would undoubtedly bring in tourist revenue and a high profile to the region, should we as a nation be offering the red carpet welcome to a man who has often shown himself to be at odds with the modern world?

In the past few days Benedict has criticised the British government for proposed new equality laws, and he’s repeatedly shown himself to be no friend of minorities and third world development – claiming on a previous occasion that native tribesmen welcomed the missionaries who helped destroy ancient cultures while the Catholic church’s views on contraception have repeatedly been a barrier to helping stem the spread of AIDs and relieving the problems of the third world.

Is such a man deserving of all the trappings of what will be in effect, although protocol may give it a different name, a State visit? And can we really claim to be a free and equal society when his views are thus endorsed?



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