historically the most anti-Catholic country in Europe (they have a holiday devoted to burning effigies of a Catholic traitor for goodness sake!), no one should be too surprised that this visit is causing some controversy.
In fact from the television coverage, it looks like the pope’s visit could be attracting more protesters than worshipers. The protesters appear to have two objections to the pope's visit. One: because it’s a state visit, the taxpayers are paying for it. Two: they are angry about the child abuse scandal and the Catholic heirarchy’s efforts to cover it up. Those are the ostensible reasons at least. But I suspect that if the Dalai Lama or an imam visited Britain on a state visit it wouldn’t be met with such a protest. Perhaps old historical animosity toward the ‘papists’ has a bit to do with this huge backlash to the visit. A great many public figures and politicians have objected to the visit as well, and the controversy has been raging ever since the visit was first announced. It even became a subject during the prime minister debates during this year's election. Surveys have shown that 2/3 of the British public dissaprove of the visit.
associate Atheism with Nazism in a speech to Queen Elizabeth and members of the royal family in Scotland. "The Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews," he said, had caused the Holocaust. He then told the British public, which is majority non-believing, to "reflect on the sobering lessons of atheist extremism of the 20th century" and urged "respect for those traditional values and cultural expressions that more aggressive forms of secularism no longer value or even tolerate."
The comments quickly drew fire from British pundits, who didn’t exactly enjoy taking lessons in Nazi ideology from a former member of the Hitler Youth. Today the pope travels to London, where the protests are sure to be very large this weekend. London is, after all, the centre of British secularism.
I wonder, though, how much all this backlash really has to do with the fact that Britain is not only not a Catholic country but also majority non-religious. After all, I remember earlier this year I was in the Czech Republic, a country with even higher level s of Atheism than the UK, during a papal visit. What was most notable about that visit was how few people turned up to see him. It was a complete non-event. There were no protestors, but few worshipers or onlookers either. And that was also a taxpayer-funded state visit.