Cardinal Walter Kasper doesn’t understand ethnic plurality, or that people can disagree without being discriminatory, then spontaneously develops “health reasons” which prevent visit to “third world country”
A senior Roman Catholic cleric has pulled out of accompanying the Pope on his visit to Britain after he described the UK as a “Third World country” where Christians are the victims of “an aggressive new atheism”.
Cardinal Walter Kasper, a senior Vatican official and a close aide to Pope Benedict XVI, made his remarks in an interview with the German magazine Focus. Vatican officials stressed his absence was purely for “health reasons” and not because of the interview. But his comments will cause embarrassment in a papal entourage already jittery about criticism aimed at the Pope.
In a discussion on the nature of secularism in the UK, Cardinal Kasper was quoted as saying: “When you land at Heathrow you think at times you have landed in a Third World country.”
Asked whether he thought Christians were discriminated against, the 77-year-old added: “Yes. Above all, an aggressive new atheism has spread through Britain. If, for example, you wear a cross on British Airways, you are discriminated against.” It was not clear whether the cardinal was accusing BA of discriminating against Christian passengers or if he was referring to the legal battle between the airline and an employee who was disciplined for refusing to remove her crucifix.
Fr Federico Lombardi, the Vatican’s chief spokesman, told The Independent that the Cardinal had been referring to the racial diversity of Britain and did not mean it as a slight. “Cardinal Kasper had no negative intentions or lowered appreciation towards the United Kingdom,” he said.