Thousands of protesters gathered on the streets of London today to demonstrate against Pope Benedict XVI’s state visit.
Organisers estimated up to 10,000 were due to join the march to Downing Street in opposition to the papal tour.
Campaigners held aloft banners stating “the Pope is wrong – put a condom on” and “Pope protects paedophile priests” as they joined the march.
The action is supported by the British Humanist Association and the National Secular Society among others.
Protesters cite a number of grievances against the Vatican’s stance on issues ranging from gay rights, the use of condoms and the Church’s response to clerical sex abuse.
Among those in attendance is human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.
The seasoned campaigner hit out at the use of taxpayers’ money being used to fund the visit.
He said: “The Vatican isn’t a state, it is not recognised as a country by the UN.
“To give the Pope head of state status is wrong and to give him immunity against prosecution is wrong – no one should be above the law.”
Mr Tatchell also criticised Pope Benedict’s homily at Westminster Cathedral stating that he did not go far enough in taking personal responsibility for the crimes of paedophile priests.
“The Pope keeps on apologising for the failings of everyone but himself,” he said.
“He hasn’t admitted his own shortcomings and even today he fails to hand over to police across the world the files he has kept on paedophile priests.
“That makes him an accomplice to sex crimes against children.”
Comedian Al Murray also figured among the crowd.
He said: “Like a lot of people I am a perplexed that it is a state visit.
“The Pope’s opposition to condoms kills people.
“It is all very well him lecturing us on morals but he should look at his own organisation’s view.”
Asked how his alter-ego The Pub Landlord would react to the visit, Murray replied “he doesn’t like it either but that is because he is a fan of Henry VIII because of his marriage arrangements”.