Catholic peer Patten is put in charge of Pope’s visit
DAVID Cameron has put a Roman Catholic Conservative grandee in charge of the Pope’s visit to Britain.
The appointment of Lord Patten of Barnes, former party chairman and Hong Kong governor, is an attempt to ease the controversy surrounding Pope Benedict’s autumn tour.
News of the visit was first made public, in defiance of protocol, by Gordon Brown last year.
Then, during Labour’s last days in power, the tour was thrown into jeopardy after the leak of a mocking Foreign Office memo suggesting the Pope could use the trip to open an abortion clinic and bless a gay marriage.
That fiasco led to charges from the Vatican that ‘dark forces’ were at work within Whitehall and saw grovelling apologies from two ministers.
Mr Cameron’s choice of Lord Patten as his ‘personal representative’ to take responsibility for the visit is a rebuke to the Foreign Office and an attempt to mollify the Catholic hierarchy.
A spokesman for the Catholic Church in England and Wales said: ‘We welcome the appointment. This will enable plans to move into a decisive phase.’
Lord Patten was credited with engineering John Major’s 1992 election win. After losing his seat he became the last Governor of Hong Kong.
He is currently Oxford University’s Chancellor.