The Evangelical Protestant Society has opposed the possibility of Pope Francis visiting Northern Ireland – on the grounds that he “lays claim to spiritual sovereignty over the whole church”,
It was announced on Monday that the three-yearly global Catholic event, the World Meeting of Families, would take place in the Republic of Ireland in 2018. The pontiff of the day traditionally attends the event, prompting speculation he may also visit Northern Ireland at the same time.
Wallace Thompson of the Evangelical Protestant Society said it had “no desire to deny the people of any faith the right to have a visit by the head of their church. However, in the case of the pope, the position is complicated by his unique claims.”
He added: “The reality is that this ‘humble’ Pope makes the same arrogant claims as his predecessors. His titles include ‘Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church’, ‘Successor of the prince of the Apostles’ and ‘Vicar of Jesus Christ’. He therefore lays claim to spiritual sovereignty over the whole church, and no visit can be merely ‘pastoral’.”
Meanwhile, Belfast Alliance councillor Nuala McAllister said that she is planning to bring forward a motion asking all councillors to welcome a visit by Pope Francis to Belfast.
First Minister Peter Robinson said whether he would visit was “entirely a matter for the Catholic hierarchy”.
He added: “We welcome visitors to Northern Ireland all the time.”