London marchers confront Pope Benedict in biggest protest of any of his trips

September 18, 2010

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(Photo: Protest against Pope Benedict in London, 18 Sept 2010/Stefan Wermuth)

Pope Benedict faced the biggest protest of his 17 trips abroad on Saturday when more than 10,000 people marched in London attacking his treatment of the abuse scandal in the Church, women priests and homosexuality. Some of the demonstrators were dressed in costumes, including black leather nuns’ habits and red cardinals’ robes. Posters bore the message: “Pope Go Home.”

The pope has faced protests throughout his four-day visit to England and Scotland, often competing for attention with the faithful who are solidly supportive of the trip, only the second by a pope in history.

The loudest and most colourful was on Saturday when secularists, atheists, pro-gay groups and human rights campaigners joined forces in a Protest the Pope march from Hyde Park Corner to Downing Street, the prime minister’s residence.

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(Photo: Protest against Pope Benedict in London, 18 Sept 2010/Stefan Wermuth)

It was the biggest demonstration the pope has faced during the 17 overseas trips in his five-year papacy. Organisers had expected 2,000 people. Many opposed the Vatican’s stance on abortion, gay rights and resistance to the use of condoms in the fight against HIV-AIDS. “Keep your rosaries off our ovaries” one group chanted, with some wearing condoms on their heads. Placards read: “Abstinence Makes the Church Grow Fondlers” and “Protect the Children, not the Priests”.

Benedict’s apology during a Mass on Saturday in which he said paedophile priests had brought “shame and humiliation” failed to appease the protesters. “Apologies will not solve the problem,” said Alice Holding, a 40-year-old protester. “He is subject to the law just like everybody else. If I did this (cover up a scandal) I would have to go to jail.”

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