Presbyterian Moderator welcomes visit by Pope Benedict
The Moderator of the Irish Presbyterian Church says he welcomes the state visit to the UK by Pope Benedict XVI and feels no sense of threat from it. Dr Norman Hamilton was speaking on today's Sunday Sequence in response to Dr Ian Paisley's claim that invitation to the Pope was "a mistake".
Dr Hamilton, who leads Northern Ireland's largest Protestant denomination, said: "Her Majesty certainly doesn't think it was a mistake, otherwise she wouldn't have invited him ... I will accept Her Majesty's judgment on this rather than Dr Paisley's . . . Her Majesty will welcome the Pope and I am very content to go along with her welcome to the Pope to Scotland and England."
When I asked the Moderator if he would accept an invitation to meet Pope Benedict during the state visit, he said he would have no difficulty meeting the Pope in a non-religious context. "If Her Majesty were to host a dinner at Holyrood, then as a loyal subject I wouldn't think it proper to decline her invitation," he said.
He continued, "As someone who is committed to Christ, I have no sense of threat or fear by the visit of any world leader to our country, whether he be a political or a faith leader or a cultural leader. I have to say I don't feel undermined, I don't feel diminished, I don't feel undervalued by any visitor to these shores. No am I diminished or undervalued."