It comes as no surprise that the Free Presbyterian Church as reported (November 28) should oppose a visit to Northern Ireland by the Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis.
But it provides any opportunity for the Democratic Unionist Party, not to leave it to the first minister Arlen Foster alone, but to show, by dissociating itself from these sentiments of the Free Presbyterian Church, that it wants to live in today’s world.
Today’s world is not the world of the 1860s with the Bishop of Rome, Pius IX , hurling anathemas at religious liberty, and others, with equal disregard, hurling insults in return.
It is an opportunity for the DUP to show that it is a party that is concerned, not with the squabbles of yesterday, however valid some may have been at the time, but with upholding, as both ideal and reality, the unity of these islands (the upholding by all of the common travel area in the face of Brexit and a possible challenge to that area from the EU is an example of one aspect of that unity that surfaces and is often overlooked in current debate).
Today’s Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis, is no threat to that, and a visit is to be welcomed.
W A Miller, Belfast