London: Pope Benedict XVI acknowledged
on Thursday that the Catholic Church had failed to act fast enough
to end the menace of paedophile priests, as he began a
historic state visit to Britain marked by a row after one of
his aides likened the UK to a `Third World` nation.
The 83-year-old Pope also apologised for the Catholic
Church`s handling of the child abuse scandal as he flew to
Scotland this morning.
He admitted on the flight that the church had not
dealt with abusive priests decisively or quickly enough.
He said the Church "did not act quickly or firmly
enough to take the necessary action" to quell the problem,
which involved abuse by priests and Catholic teachers in
Ireland, the United States and several other countries.
"The authorities in the Church have not been
vigilant enough," he said.
The pope`s comments marked his most thorough admission
to date of church failures to deal with the sex abuse scandal,
which has exploded anew with revelations in Belgium this week
of hundreds of victims, at least 13 of whom committed suicide.
Risking sparking a new row after one of his aides
likened the UK to a `Third World` country, the Pope invoked
Nazi Germany in an attack on `atheist extremism`.
The Pope likened the rise of atheism in Britain to
Nazi Germany as he warned against "aggressive forms of
During a speech at the palace, the pope warned of the
dangers of "aggressive secularism" as Britain strives to be a
"modern and multicultural society."
The Pontiff touched down at Edinburgh International
Airport from Rome on board an Al Italia flight - called
Shepherd I - shortly after 10 a.m. this morning on a four day
visit. The Duke of Edinburgh was on the runway to welcome the
After receiving full honours due to a world leader,
the Pope travelled to Holyroodhouse Palace to meet the Queen.
His motorcade, surrounded by outriders, made its way
through the packed streets of Edinburgh and on arrival he and
the monarch stood side by side to listen to the national
Inside the lavish building, they exchanged gifts and
held private talks before the Queen and Benedict gave short
In his brief address, the Pope said: "As we reflect on
the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the twentieth
century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God,
religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a
truncated vision of man and of society and thus to a reductive
vision of the person and his destiny."
He said the United Kingdom strives "to be a modern and
"In this challenging enterprise, may it always
maintain its respect for those traditional values and cultural
expressions that more aggressive forms of secularism no longer
value or even tolerate," said the Pope, who is the first Papal
to visit Britain for 28 years. The only other visit by a pope
was made by John Paul II in 1982.
The Queen is the titular head of the Church of England
which was formed in 1534 after King Henry VIII broke with
"Let it not obscure the Christian foundation that
underpins its freedoms; and may that patrimony, which has
always served the nation well, constantly inform the example
your Government and people set before the two billion members
of the Commonwealth and the great family of English-speaking
nations throughout the world," he said.
Hours ahead of his visit, senior cardinal Cardinal
Walter Kasper, was dropped from his entourage for his
provocative remarks of describing the UK "a Third World
Kasper told Germany`s Focus magazine: "England is a
secularised, pluralistic country these days.
"When you land at Heathrow Airport, you sometimes
think you might have landed in a Third World country."