He will speak alongside Bishop Malcolm McMahon in a debate scheduled two days before the Pope's visit

Comedian Frank Skinner is to defend priestly celibacy alongside a Catholic bishop in a debate two days before the Pope’s visit.

Mr Skinner, a practising Catholic, will argue that celibacy should continue to be a requirement for Catholic priests. He will be joined by Jack Valero, a spokesman for Opus Dei and for the Cause of Cardinal Newman, Fr Stephen Wang, dean of studies at Allen Hall seminary, and Bishop Malcolm McMahon of Nottingham.

They will be debating against theologian Tina Beattie, human rights lawyer Helena Kennedy and Carmelite Fr John McGowan.

The event takes place at the Odeon cinema in Leicester Square and will follow a screening of Conspiracy of Silence, a controversial film about a priest who wishes to marry.

Frank Skinner said in an article for the Times last year that he stopped going to Mass at 17 but returned to the faith after reading a book by theologian Hans Küng.

He wrote: “[Hans Küng] said the Roman Catholic Church was essentially on the road to truth but sometimes turned into cul-de-sacs; exactly what one might expect from a divine institution run by ordinary human beings. That was more or less the attitude with which I returned to the Church: what Küng called a ‘critical loyalty’.”