Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark has said he has been assured that protesters will not disrupt papal events next week.
Speaking after meeting leaders of the Protest the Pope coalition earlier today, Archbishop Smith said the Church had been given a “very clear assurance that those seeking to ‘protest the Pope’ have no intention of disrupting any of the events during the papal visit”.
He said: “We had an open and frank discussion on the issues of child abuse, homosexuality and the status of Pope Benedict’s visit as a state visit. I undertook to report back to my fellow bishops the particular concerns raised. I am extremely grateful to DCI Chris Lundrigan and his staff for hosting and facilitating a candid meeting.”
He denied reports that the Church had called the meeting, saying it had been arranged by police.
The organisers of the Protest the Pope movement are planning a rally at Hyde Park Corner, central London. Reports have said that similar attempts at organising a rally in Scotland have failed.
Archbishop Peter Smith told the BBC Radio 4 programme World at One: “I listened to what they said but I said to them that they didn’t quite understand the Church or what sort of files the Vatican might have. And I made the point quite properly that child abuse is dealt with by the local bishop.”
The meeting was held at New Scotland Yard and included Andrew Copson of the British Humanist Association, Terry Sanderson of the National Secular Society and Peter Tatchell, a gay rights campaigner and leader of OutRage!
Mr Tatchell said protesters had never planned to disturb papal events.
He said: “We have always said that our protests will be peaceful and lawful. There has never been any question of disrupting events.”
According to reporters who waited outside New Scotland Yard, Mr Tatchell said he had promised not to arrest the Pope during the visit.
Mr Tatchell and others, including Geoffrey Robinson QC, have threatened to arrest the Pope for alleged crimes against humanity. Mr Robinson has drawn up what he describes as a legal case for Pope Benedict’s arrest.
The chief constable in charge of security for the visit has said that anyone attempting to arrest the Pope will be arrested themselves and that police officers are being given instructions on how to deal with protesters attempting a citizen’s arrest.