DUP founder: I’m bewildered that Protestant church leaders would welcome Pope NI visit

Posted By: May 06, 2018



Wallace Thompson


News Letter. Belfast. Friday, May 4, 2018


Sign up A DUP founder has spoken of his “bewilderment” after Protestant church leaders said they would welcome a papal visit to Northern Ireland this summer. Wallace Thompson, secretary of the Evangelical Protestant Society, said a visit by Pope Francis north of the border during his planned trip to the Republic of Ireland in August would not promote peace and reconciliation and could, in fact, sow divisions.

And the former political advisor urged Protestant church leaders to focus on their own teachings rather than “pandering” to the head of the Catholic Church. He was speaking after The Irish Catholic newspaper revealed details of correspondence sent to the Pope last December by Church of Ireland Primate Archbishop Richard Clarke, Presbyterian Moderator Dr. Noble McNeely, Methodist President Dr. Laurence Graham, and the President of the Irish Council of Churches Bishop John McDowell.
“The potential that a visit to Northern Ireland could have in promoting peace and reconciliation throughout the island cannot be underestimated,” it read. But Mr. Thompson slammed the move and said he is opposed to a papal visit on spiritual grounds.














Wallace Thompson, secretary of the Evangelical Protestant Society.

He also felt that the authors of the letter were “over-exaggerating” the positive impact a visit from the head of the Catholic Church would have on society in the Province. He told the News Letter: “I fail to see how it would bring people together. Depending on what type of visit this would be and how it would be promoted, it has the potential to cause divisions rather than unite people.”

Mr. Thompson spoke of his “bewilderment” at the welcome extended by Protestant church leaders, adding: “They would be better employed promoting the teachings of the Protestant faith. “The issues outlined by Martin Luther 500 years ago have not gone away, they are still there and are every bit as significant now as they were back then. “So would it not be better for these Protestant church leaders to seek to proclaim the reformed truth and promote that rather than pandering to the head of a church with whose teachings they should not be in agreement?”

However, Methodist President Dr. Laurence Graham said the visit could help “build bridges” in Northern Ireland. Though Dr. Graham stressed the letter was not an invitation, he said Pope Francis would be very welcome should he choose to visit. He told BBC Radio Ulster’s Talkback program yesterday: “There were two key things we said in the letter. “First of all, that his attendance would enhance and affirm the place of the family at the of the heart of society, and secondly, we felt that the visit had the potential to help in promoting the cause of peace and reconciliation throughout this island, which cannot be underestimated.”

Pope Francis is visiting the Republic in August for the World Meeting of Families in Dublin. It will be the first Papal visit to Ireland since Pope John Paul visited in 1979. In a statement to the News Letter, Rev. Trevor Gribben, general secretary of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland said: “When the announcement was made in March that Pope Francis would visit the Republic of Ireland this August, I said that it would be a significant event for our Roman Catholic neighbors and friends and, therefore, should be significant for all of us. “Along with others at the time, I made the point that if Pope Francis were to come to Northern Ireland at some stage in the future, that would be welcomed as a significant step in assisting peace and reconciliation.”

Read more at https://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/dup-founder-i-m-bewildered-that-protestant-church-leaders-would-welcome-pope-ni-visit-1-8488269