Protests planned by Free Presbyterians if Pope visits NI

Posted By: October 28, 2017

  BBC. Friday, October 27, 2017

 Pope Francis is expected to include a trip to Northern Ireland when he visits Ireland in 2018

 A Free Presbyterian clergyman has said there will be protests if Pope Francis visits Northern Ireland next year.

Retired minister Rev David McIlveen said that while the Pope has a right to visit, he can expect some opposition.

 His comments come after DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson spoke to The Irish Catholic newspaper.

Mr. Donaldson said he did not think there would be a negative reaction within the Protestant community if the Pope visited Northern Ireland.

The Rev McIlveen said he did not want to comment specifically on what Sir Jeffrey had said, but made his own views clear.

 He told the BBC: “Everyone has a right to visit, as a Protestant I believe in civil and religious liberty.

“I think it’s only right but to say that we will be opposing that visit.

“We will be protesting if he does visit, as Dr. Paisley protested at Strasbourg in 1988, and the message of 1988 is exactly the same as it would be in 2018.”

Image caption DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said he is interested to hear what the Pope has to say about big moral issues

 Pope Francis has been invited to visit Ireland for the World Meeting of Families in August 2018.

 In the interview with The Irish Catholic, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson also said:

 “There is a recognition that Pope Francis is the head of the Catholic Church and that a very substantial portion of our population adheres to the Catholic Church.

 He added, “As a Protestant, Presbyterian, living in Northern Ireland, I look with interest to what the Pope has to say about the big moral issues of the 21st Century and what they mean on this island and in Northern Ireland.”

In response to any future visit by the Pope to Northern Ireland, a spokesman for the Orange Order reaffirmed the organization’s belief in civil and religious liberty.

“The most appropriate response…will be our ongoing commitment to the Reformation truths and the promotion of the Gospel message.”

The Church of Ireland and the Presbyterian Church have given any visit a broad welcome.

A spokesperson for the Presbyterian Church said:

 “If this visit does happen, I would hope that all other people on this island would want to join with our fellow citizens in welcoming the leader of the Catholic Church to Ireland.”