THE Reverend Ian Paisley led dozens of people yesterday in a protest against the first state papal visit to Britain.
Dr Paisley arrived in Edinburgh’s Old Town to highlight his concerns over the four-day visit, which he branded a “nonsense”.
Members of the Free Presbyterian Church unveiled a banner near the Magdalen Chapel in Cowgate.
They also distributed booklets outlining their opposition to Pope Benedict XVI’s trip.
The booklet stated that “recent scandals” within the Roman Catholic Church meant the Pope would not receive a universal welcome.
Dr Paisley was critical of the fact that the papal visit to the UK was not discussed in the House of Commons.
Speaking at the same time as the Pope was in Edinburgh, Dr Paisley said: “I don’t want his blessing and I will be keeping as far away as I can. Why? Because the whole thing is nonsense.”
Dr Paisley addressed around 60 followers on the corner of Grassmarket and Cowgate in a gathering which also featured songs and prayers.
He told them: “We’re here today on very solemn and serious matters.
“I’ve just seen the statement that has been issued by the Roman Catholic Church about this visit and we are told that if we go to this Mass here today then we will have a shortened purgatory and our sins will be forgiven – £25 and you’ll get out of purgatory quicker.
“Now there’s no such a place as purgatory, so that’s a farce from the very beginning. Secondly, no man can forgive sins but God only.”
He added: “I believe in gospel without money and without price.”
Dr Paisley later defended his decision to protest in Scotland on the same day as the Pope’s visit.
He told reporters: “I believe in freedom. I wouldn’t be muzzled by anybody. I believe there has to be civil and religious liberty and there should be full debate on these things.
“I resent the fact that this state visit to Scotland was never discussed in the House of Commons.
“I think we need to have a national debate on where this country’s going to and what it’s going to stand for.”
Asked if he risked igniting religious tensions, he replied: “I believe we should debate this and we should debate it in a reasonable manner – not inciting people to attack anyone – but attack those views that we feel are not truthful, are not accurate and only deceive people.”
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