30/10/2009

'Nothing Sinister' In Anti-Pope Campaign

A DUP assemblyman has said there is "nothing sinister" behind an online campaign against a possible Papal visit to Northern Ireland, despite earlier branding the Pope the "Anti-Christ".

Mid-Ulster MLA Ian McCrea is one of 65 Facebook users who have joined a protest group entitled 'No pope here'.

DUP councillors Brian Graham and Ian Stevenson are also listed as supporters of the page, created on the popular social networking site.

The group emerged in September following speculation Pope Benedict XVI was preparing to visit the Province next year.

Vatican officials have refused to be drawn on reports, however, it is claimed the pontiff's arrival could form part of a wider UK trip.
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Mr McCrea, son of MP Rev Willy McCrea, had earlier posted a statement on his constituency website labelling the Pope "the Antichrist".

He said a visit would not only be "insensitive" towards the Protestant community, but also to Catholics, who "feel that the hierarchy of the [Roman Catholic] church have been complicit in abuse cases over many years".

Defending the Facebook movement, Mr McCrea told the Newsletter: "There is nothing sinister in joining the group - we are Protestants opposed to a papal visit.

"The pope sets himself up as the ruler of all men - as the head of the Church. However, the scripture teaches that Christ is the head of the Church."

Antrim councillor Mr Graham told the paper he "could not remember" joining the campaign, but insisted a a papal visit would not be a "wise decision".

Mr Stevenson, a Ballymena DUP councillor, said he would not endorse a visit for "theologically" reasons.

(PR/BMcc)

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