Free Presbyterians ‘will protest’ Pope’s visit

The Rev Dr Ian Brown minister of the Martyrs Memorial Free Presbyterian Church in Belfast

The Rev Dr Ian Brown minister of the Martyrs Memorial Free Presbyterian Church in Belfast

The cleric who now ministers in Ian Paisley’s previous church in Belfast has vowed to protest if the Pope visits Northern Ireland in 2018.

The DUP says First Minister Arlene Foster will meet the Pope if he makes a state visit in two years.

Pope Francis  exchanges gifts with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny during a private audience in his private studio at the Vatican, Monday, Nov 28, 2016. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, pool )

Pope Francis exchanges gifts with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny during a private audience in his private studio at the Vatican, Monday, Nov 28, 2016. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, pool )

News of a possible papal visit has also been warmly welcomed by Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness, UUP leader Mike Nesbitt, SDLP MLA Nichola Mallon and Alliance MLA Trevor Lunn.

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Methodist Church in Ireland and Church of Ireland also welcomed the news while the Evangelical Alliance’s David Smyth supported the visit as “an issue of religious freedom”.

However, the Orange Order declined to say what position it might take, saying simply that it “does not comment on conjecture”.

And Free Presbyterian minister Rev Ian Brown of the Martyrs’ Memorial Church on the Ravenhill Road in Belfast, said he would protest.

Given that the current Pope is “no closer to proclaiming the one true biblical Gospel - that salvation is by faith alone through Christ alone” than the Catholic church of Martin Luther’s day, he said, “the only proper response to his high publicity visit is a solid protest”.

Fellow Free Presbyterian Minister Rev David McIlveen, now retired, accompanied Rev Paisley to Strasbourg in 1988 when the latter was ejected from the European Parliament for calling the Pope “Anti-Christ” as the pontiff addressed MEPs.

Rev McIlveen said that he fully respected the rights of the Catholic people of Northern Ireland to have a “pastoral visit” by their church leader in 2018.

However, he said he also felt he had a duty to hold a “peaceful protest” as he believes that the office of Pope as “Vicar of Christ on Earth” effectively takes the position he believes should be held by Jesus Christ in the world.

This was the position taken historically by various leaders of the Reformation, he added.