British Atheists Want to Arrest Pope During Visit
Atheist leaders Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens want Pope Benedict XVI to be arrested when he visits the UK in September for “crimes against humanity,” Christian Today reported.
Dawkins and Hitchens charges come amid reports that the pope had signed a letter in 1985 when he was known as Cardinal Ratzinger on behalf of priest Stephen Kiesle who was charged with sexually abusing boys under his watch in California.
The Vatican denies they tried to stonewall Kiesle’s defrocking and say that they are victims of a hate campaign generated by their unpopular stance on several issues including birth control and same sex marriage. They maintain that sexual abuse by priests is limited and not as rampant as some media reports maintain.
Dawkins cited as precedent the arrest of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet when he visited Britain in 1998. Last year a British judge issued an arrest warrant for Israeli politician Tzipi Livni upon the urgings of pro-Palestinian activists, causing Livni to cancel her UK visit.
Human rights lawyers note that the Vatican is not a recognized by international law as a state, nor is it recognized by the UN. For this reason, the pontiff’ does not merit diplomatic immunity. However, the Vatican enjoys diplomatic relations with some 179 countries.
Pope Benedict will visit London, Glasgow and Coventry on September 16 and 19 to beatify 19th century theologian Cardinal John Henry Newman.
Historically, the only pope who was arrested was Pope Pius VII by Napoleon Bonaparte, who held the pontiff prisoner for six years for excommunicating Bonaparte.