From UK’s Times-Online:
On the day Rome finally confirmed that the Pope would make a state visit to Britain this year, the Vatican launched an unprecedented attack on the human rights policies of Gordon Brown, claiming that they threatened religious freedom and urging Catholic bishops to fight back with “missionary zeal”.
The Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols, added his voice to the assault, describing the new equality legislation as “unjust”.
In what was interpreted as an attack on Harriet Harman’s Equality Bill, the Pope urged the 35 Catholic bishops from England and Wales in Rome on a five-yearly ad limina visit to make a united stand against it. He claimed that the proposed equal rights laws threatened “longstanding British traditions” of freedom of speech.
Pope Benedict’s words indicated the level of Catholic anger, shared at the highest levels of the Church of England, at the Labour Government’s repeated moves to marginalize religion in public life.
British clerics are growing increasingly vocal about what they fear will be unintended consequences of the legislation, such as forcing them to employ gays and transsexuals.
A spokesman for the Equalities Office said: “The Pope acknowledges our country’s firm commitment to equality for all members of society. We believe everyone should have a fair chance in life and not be discriminated against. The Equality Bill will make Britain a fairer and more equal place.”
The Equality Bill, which is pending in Parliament, is intended to combat discrimination on the basis of sex, race, disability, religion, or sexual orientation.
The papal visit later this year will be the first to Britain since Pope John Paul II visited in 1982.