Majority in Britain are indifferent to visit of the pope later this month


THE MAJORITY of people in Britain appear to be indifferent to the visit of the pope there later this month, according to a poll for English Catholic weekly the Tablet.

However, Pope Benedict is recognised by more people in England and Wales than the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and more are aware that he is head of the Catholic Church than that Queen Elizabeth is head of the Church of England.

Only 11 per cent of those polled feel that the Catholic Church has handled the clerical child sex abuse scandal very or fairly well, compared to 55 per cent who feel it has dealt with it either very or fairly badly.

The Ipsos MORI poll was conducted for the Tabletbetween August 20th and 26th last and involved face-to-face interviews with 996 British people over 15, of whom 117 were Catholic in proportion to their number in the general population.

It found that 63 per cent neither opposed or supported the papal visit with a quarter saying they supported it.

Just 6 per cent of Catholics said they would be attending any of the major gatherings involving the pope at Glasgow, London and/or Birmingham.

Presented with photographs, 65 per cent immediately recognised the pope compared to 50 per cent for the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Almost a quarter of the Catholics failed to recognise the pope. Among Catholics, 78 per cent believe the church is a force for good, a view shared by just 41 per cent of all those polled and by only 39 per cent of Anglicans. It is believed these latter opinions may have been influenced by the clerical child sex abuse scandals.

Those aged over 65 felt most strongly about this with 63 per cent believing the church has handled the scandal very or fairly badly, a view shared by 60 per cent of those aged between 35 and 54. Among non-believers that figure is 62 per cent while among Catholics it stands at 52 per cent. Overall, just 15 per cent believe the church had handled the scandal well.

Where education is concerned, 49 per cent believe religious organisations should be allowed run schools, with 68 per cent of Catholics in favour.

Of the 55 per cent who are aware that under the Act of Settlement a member of the royal family who marries a Catholic must surrender his/her right to the throne, 44 per cent believe that is wrong.