Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, has had to withdraw from the Papal visit tomorrow because he is ill. In May, the 77 year-old cardinal visited Liverpool where he celebrated Mass in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, preached at the 'Two Cathedrals Service' in Liverpool's Anglican and Catholic Cathedrals and gave a lecture at Liverpool Hope University on Jewish-Christian relations entitled: 'Jews and Christians: Overcoming the Past to Construct a Shared Future of Peace'.
Several media reports tonight carred extracts from a German magazine article in which the Cardinal is quoted referring to the UK as a "Third World country" marked by "a new and aggressive atheism". The Vatican has said the cardinal had not intended "any kind of slight", and was referring to the UK's multicultural society.
A spokesman for the Catholic Church in England and Wales said: "The attributed comments of Cardinal Kasper do not represent the views of the Vatican, nor those of bishops in this country.
"Catholics play a full part in this country's life and welcome the rich diversity of thought, culture and people which is so evident here. This historic visit marks a further development of the good relationship between the United Kingdom and the Holy See. We are confident that it will be a huge success."