Pope's first official U.K. visit falls on eve of Yom Kippur
Baroness Helene Haymen, the Jewish speaker of the House of Lords, appeals to reschedule, but Foreign Office promises dignitary event will end before holiday begins.
The first ever papal state visit to the United Kingdom is running into yet more problems. And this time, it’s the Jews who are offended.
Pope Benedict XVI’s meticulously planned, four day visit to the UK this coming September will include such activities as a meeting with the Queen, a massive open air prayer event, a beatification ceremony for Cardinal Newman in Birmingham, and a historic address before the British parliament– which will take place on the eve of Yom Kippur.
The speaker of the House of Lords, Baroness Hélène Hayman - who is Jewish, appealed Monday to the Foreign Office to move the speech from the late afternoon slot so that Jewish dignitaries, including the chief rabbi, could attend and still have time to get home and adequately prepare for the holy day
But the cabinet office replied that it was unable to change the schedule, stressing that the speech would most definitely end before Yom Kippur actually began.
The pope’s visit has been mired in one controversy after the next, beginning several months ago when an internal memo appearing to mock the Catholic Church was leaked.
In the document, a member of the Foreign Office irreverently proposed that the pope open an abortion clinic, give his blessing to single-sex marriages and launch a condom line. The entire papal visit team had to be replaced in the outcry that followed.
More recently two prominent atheist activists threatened to have the pope arrested while in the UK for his part in the Catholic pedophile scandals, while the BBC network announced it was preparing a television program enacting a trial for the pope.
Meanwhile, costs for the trip were soaring, and it is now expected to cost taxpayers up to 15 million pounds – a fact that was plastered on the front pages of the papers Monday.