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Archbishop: ‘crackpots and lunatics’ could still disrupt visit

Archbishop Peter Smith (Photo: Mazur/CCN)

Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark has warned Catholic families that “crackpots and lunatics” could still disrupt the papal visit.

The archbishop said Protest the Pope campaigners had promised in a meeting last week that they would not disrupt any of the ceremonies during the visit.

But he said the protesters could not guarantee that “some lunatic might not attach themselves to some of their events”.

“To be fair to them nobody can guarantee that you are not going to get crackpots and lunatics tagging on to these things and acting individually,” he said.

The archbishop met the leaders of the Protest the Pope coalition at New Scotland Yard last week. The meeting was called by the Met police in an attempt, he said, to “remove misunderstandings”. He described it as a “frank but civilised discussion”.

Archbishop Smith said: “What pleased me very much and gave me very great relief was that they had no intention of disrupting any of the ceremonies – but they will be very, very vocal about the issues they are concerned about,” he said.

He said he told the coalition leaders that he had no objections to free expression of opinions as long as they were made respectfully and with dignity.

Besides Archbishop Smith and Peter Tatchell, founder of the gay rights group OutRage! the meeting was also attended by Terry Sanderson of the National Secular Society, Andrew Copson of the British Humanist Association and Protest the Pope coalition organiser Marco Tranchino.

The coalition has been effective in stirring up opposition to the papal visit through the British media, primarily through challenging the £12million cost to the taxpayer. A further £10 million will be met by the Church in England, Wales and Scotland.

In the days preceding the visit the group was to hold a “Pope Nope” party, a comedy night and a film festival.

Members planned to protest outside St Mary’s University in London when the Pope speaks there today.

The Pope may also encounter protests when he travels the short distance by Popemobile from a Lambeth Palace meeting with the Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury to Westminster Hall in the Houses of Parliament to deliver a speech to a civic audience. Tomorrow a rally against the visit will be staged at Hyde Park corner.