(Photo: Protest as Pope Benedict XVI arrives by car at St Mary’s University College in London September 17, 2010/Peter Macdiarmid)
Pope Benedict reminded his Church on Friday that its first priority was to provide a safe environment for children as the pontiff was met by the first substantial protest of his delicate visit to Britain. Several hundred people whistled and shouted “Pope must resign” and “shame” as the papal motorcade entered a Catholic school complex in Twickenham, southwest London.
They held placards reading “Hypocrisy and lies” and “Catholic paedophile cover up.”
The shouting of the protesters duelled with the singing of hymns from inside the school, where the pope held what was dubbed “the big assembly” of several thousand Catholic school children from throughout Britain.
Addressing teachers and administrators in the school’s chapel, the pope, who was likely to have heard the protesters as he entered, said Catholic schools had to provide “a safe environment for children and young people.”
British bishops have dealt with the problem of child sex abuse earlier, more quickly, and more decisively than in other countries such as Ireland or the United States. “I pray that this may continue to be a hallmark of the Catholic schools in this country,” the pope said during the visit, which tens of thousands of other British school children watched from the classrooms throughout the country.