Pope in UK urges tolerance, warns against atheism

Thu Sep 16, 2010 2:43pm EDT
 

By Philip Pullella and Avril Ormsby

GLASGOW (Reuters) - Pope Benedict started a trip to Britain on Thursday with some of the clearest criticism yet of his Church's handling of its sexual abuse crisis and urged the country to beware of "aggressive secularism."

Some 125,000 people, including a small number of protesters, watched the 83-year-old pope as he was driven through the Scottish capital Edinburgh wearing a green plaid scarf.

Hours before landing, he told reporters aboard the plane taking him to Scotland for a four-day trip to Britain that he was shocked by what he called "a perversion" of the priesthood.

"It is also a great sadness that the authority of the Church was not sufficiently vigilant and not sufficiently quick and decisive in taking the necessary measures," he added.

Advocates for victims have long been calling for Church leaders to assume more legal and moral responsibility for allowing the sexual abuse scandals to get out of hand in the United States and several countries in Europe.

Benedict has a delicate path to tread in England and Scotland in relations with the Anglican church after his offer last October making it easier for disaffected Anglicans, unhappy over the ordination of women and gay bishops, to convert.

These relations could be thrown into sharp focus on Friday when the pope is due to meet the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the head of the Church of England, the Anglican mother church, at Lambeth Palace, in London.

AGGRESSIVE SECULARISM   Continued...

 
<p>Queen Elizabeth walks with Pope Benedict XVI, followed by Prince Philip, in the Morning Drawing Room of the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, Scotland September 16, 2010. REUTERS/Dan Kitwood/Pool</p>