Thousands protest against the pope in London

Saturday, September 18, 2010

LONDON - Thousands of demonstrators marched through central London Saturday to demonstrate against the visit to Britain of Pope Benedict XVI.

“Pope protects paedophile priests,” and “The pope is wrong - put a condom on” were among the banners held up by marchers as they made their way from Hyde Park Corner to Downing Street, the seat of the British government.

Organisers of the Protest the Pope alliance said they expected 10,000 to join the march, but other estimates were lower.

“The days of popes are over. We are no longer listening to religious leaders - we get our morality from other places,” said Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society.

Just hours earlier, in a sermon at a mass in Westminster Cathedral, the pope apologized for the child sex abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church and expressed “deep sorrow” for victims of abuse by priests.

“The pope keeps apologizing for the failings of everyone but himself,” said gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.

The pope met British Prime Minister David Cameron and other political leaders on the third day of his official visit to Britain Saturday, as police continued to question six men held on suspicion of a terrorist plot against the pontiff.

However, Scotland Yard said nothing had so far been found to substantiate the allegations made against the men, who are all said to be of North African origin.

Meanwhile, the pope started the day with a private meeting with Cameron, who had been unable to attend official events Thursday due to the funeral of his father.

In advance of the visit, organisers of the papal trip said the pontiff would tell Cameron that he had prayed for his father, Ian, who died during a holiday in France last week, aged 77.

The pope also met with Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader and deputy prime minister, and Harriet Harman, the acting leader of the opposition Labour Party.

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