IAN PAISLEY has condemned an invitation for the Pope to visit Britain later this year and slammed child-abusing Catholic priests as “anti-Christ”.
The firebrand former preacher said the decision to invite Pope Benedict XVI to Britain in September was a “mistake”.
“I think he should not be invited to the country,” the 84-year-old told the BBC World Service. “I don’t know how it has been done because they have had it all secret.
“Nobody knows who made the thing. You go and ask a question of any minister and he says he doesn’t want to have anything to do with it. The Queen is only meeting them on Scottish soil, not on English soil.
“I think it’s a mistake.”
The September 16-19 papal visit to Britain is the first by a Pope since 1982, when a six-day tour by John Paul II’s drew huge crowds. He was the first pontiff to make the trip for 450 years.
Pope Benedict will be received at the start of his tour by Queen Elizabeth, the head of the Church of England, in Edinburgh, before travelling on to Glasgow, Coventry and London.
Mr Paisley, the North’s first minister from 2007 to 2008, also lambasted the Vatican’s response to child sex abuse scandals that have rocked the Catholic church in Ireland.
“We have had a terrible happening in Ireland with the priests and monks and nuns all taking part in acts of disgraceful behaviour with young people and we haven’t seen the Catholic Church taking a strong stand on this.
“A person, like some of the priests we’ve had, destroying the lives of young people and then going out and saying I can forgive sins, it’s only right that be called what it is.
“That is anti-Christ in teaching and in doctrine.
“I believe that any man that destroys a child’s life, as we have seen scores of young people in this day and generation – and then the church having to wait until it is uncovered – is an absolute disgrace.”
Mr Paisley did not stand in May’s British general elections, winding down a career as a key figure in the long-troubled province’s road to peace.
He helped bring stability to the North, dogged by three decades of civil unrest until the 1990s, by finally agreeing to share power in the province with his one-time arch-enemies, Sinn Féin.
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