I had noticed there was a sign on the entrance pillar, but couldn't manage to read it. Today I slowed down just enough to read it...or sort of...I thought it said "Apostolic Nunciate" which basically made me none the wiser. But then I put 2 and 2 together and realised the Pontiff was comin' to town tomorrow for the first Papal state visit to the UK in over 500 years and that the sign probably said Apostolic Nunciature which probably means Pope Hotel.
One of the Pope's pals won't be coming with him. Apparently he said that Britain is like a 3rd World Country. In darker moments, I may have occasionally said the same thing. Don't kick me out.
According to The Telegraph, Cardinal Kasper Walter made some disparaging remarks about the UK including that it was an aggressive new atheism was rife (which I think may also be true). In an article headlined “A Third World country” he was quoted as saying: “When you arrive at Heathrow you think at times that you’ve landed in a Third World country.”
Well, exactly. Heathrow is skank. It's better now. But used to be you'd think "Look, I bought a ticket, I told you I was coming - along with the tens of thousands of other people who are arriving today - the least you could have done was tidy up a bit. Run the vacuum, maybe? But really, it's ok, don't put yourself out on my account." I've been in genuine 3rd World airports that were cleaner and classier.
But in order to clarify his comments, it's apparently because of Britain's "multi-cultural diversity". Really? Yes, don't let the UK think you're just a snobby German neat-freak, make a comment that could be interpreted as just a teensy bit racist.
Who's handing the Vatican's PR these days? 'Cos I want me some of that media goodness.
But it's not because he's so 'plain spoken' that he's not coming, but rather because Cardinal Walter has gout.
All this puts the dodgy memo about possible activities for the Pontiff by a junior member of Foreign and Commonwealth office staff in a new light. This young fellow 'brainstormed' that an ideal papal visit* could include a special edition brand of condoms, sacking of dodgy bishops, ordination of a female priest and apologising to the British people for Spanish Armada (which received both papal blessing and Vatican cash). Then he was foolish enough to actually distribute that as a memo. And even though the then Foreign Secretary David Milliband made a 'grovelling apology' apparently that was not enough:
Oh really? Like a Cardinal making some seriously off colour remarks just days before showing up (and then not). One has to question whether the action taken is enough.
*OK, all the other ones are clearly a no-go and trashy. But I always thought the Armada apology was inspired.
(Photo credit filip1)