The world likes England

The Pope is early. At 10.16 a.m., 14 minutes earlier than expected, the Alitalia plane with flight number AZ 4000 lands at Edinburgh Airport. It is the prelude to a four-day trip through Great Britain, during which Pope Benedict XVI. will give talks in twelve places. There is a lot to be resolved in the UK.

While the plane was still in the air, the British media tried on Thursday morning to make hell on the head of the Catholic Church.

"The Pope flies in the middle of the storm of indignation over the racist statements of his helper," says the reputable newspaper The Guardianwho has put herself at the forefront of the Pope's critics. While the infamous tabloids like Sun and News of the World turn to less complex topics, reports the Londoner Evening Standard: "The Cardinal's comments overshadow the Pope's visit". It is the top news item in the online edition of the newspaper.

Not very diplomatic

Church critics have been protesting against the German Pope's stay in Great Britain for days. They take a stand against the high costs (there is talk of more than 20 million pounds) or accuse the Pope of having done nothing against the abuse of children by priests.

The fact that the protest has now spilled over into the editorial offices of the major media is due to an interview that the German cardinal Walter Kasper gave to the Munich magazine Focus has given. Kasper was President of the Council for Christian Unity, a kind of mediator between the churches. In the interview, however, he shows himself not very diplomatic - and compares England with a country in the third world.

"Aggressive New Atheism"

When asked why "so many Britons expressed displeasure with the Pope," Kasper said literally: "England is now a secularized, pluralistic country. When you land at Heathrow Airport, you sometimes think you have landed in a third world country . "

Kasper also claims that "aggressive neo-atheism is widespread in England. If you wear a cross with British Airways, for example, you are disadvantaged." He is apparently referring to a legal dispute from 2006. At that time, the airline forbade an employee from wearing a Christian cross visibly on a necklace. The case went to court and was also highly controversial in the UK.

Officially ill

The interview with Kasper appeared on Monday - on Wednesday the Vatican said that, contrary to what was planned, Cardinal Kasper could not accompany the Pope on his trip to Great Britain. Officially for health reasons, but the British media see it as an admission of guilt by the Church. In the Daily Mail it is said that the cardinal was "thrown out" of the Pope's entourage.

Much space is given in the leaves to the critics of the Holy Father. The Guardian quotes the head of the British Humanist Association (BHA), Andrew Copson: "We should be proud that the UK is a place of liberalism and tolerance - as opposed to the Holy See." In early 2009, the BHA supported an action in which atheist messages were stuck on British buses.

"That is trash"

The religion expert Clifford Longley also comes to the Guardian to word and gets excited that Kasper is telling "obviously nonsense". The writer Darcus Howe is quoted as saying, "This is rubbish what Kasper says." The newspaper also reports that more than 50 "public figures", including the writers Stephen Fry and Terry Pratchett, wrote a letter to the editorial staff against doing the honor to "Pope Ratzinger" and receiving him as a state guest .

The commentators also find it an affront that the Pope will not return home in a British Airways plane after the end of his journey, but will use an Alitalia plane as on the outward flight. This violates the tradition according to which the Holy Father allows himself to be transported by the airline of the host country, he poisons Guardian.

Well taken note of

The Vatican is trying to smooth things over. Spokesman Federico Lombardi emphasized that Cardinal Kasper was actually ill and could therefore not fly. In his interview, he "had no negative intentions or wanted to express contempt for the United Kingdom". Lombardi stated that Kasper had taken note of the "great values ​​of British culture".

As for the question of the return flight, the Vatican justified itself by stating that the BA is no longer a state-owned airline. The Guardian Shares pointedly against it: "Alitalia was also privatized two years ago."

Magazine rows back

In Munich, meanwhile, the source of the Kasper quotes prides itself on having started a scandal: "Ein Focus-Interview makes headlines in Great Britain ", cheers the online presence of the magazine from the Burda publishing house.

However, the matter does not seem to be very safe to the conservative newspaper. The editors say via a news agency that the context of the conversation clearly shows that Kasper's statement about England as a third world country was "clearly" referring to the "ethnic and cultural diversity of the country".

However, the title contradicts this representation Focus gave the interview: "Country of the Third World" is written above it - simply and poignantly.