Catholic newspaper challenees 'anti-Catholic bigotry'

 Outcry at Pope's remarks on Protestants - no comment on anti-Catholicism * British PM refused to repeal Act of Settlement * Paisley refuses to discuss ecumenism * NI Church minister describes Pope as 'Antichrist' In a hard-hitting editorial this week The Irish Catholic newspaper asks "Why is anti-Catholic bigotry still tolerated?" The paper highlights the fact that Britain's new Prime Minister Gordon Brown has refused to lift the restriction that bans a Catholic from succeeding to the throne and the fact that Ian Paisley has pointedly refused to discuss ecumenism with Catholics. Writing exclusively for the paper Scotland's most senior Churchman Cardinal Keith O'Brien says that Britain's refusal to lift the ban on Catholics is "state-sponsored sectarianism". Cardinal O'Brien, a native of Co Antrim, goes on to say the act is "an outstanding example of bigotry in the United Kingdom" and accuses the British goernment of "undermining attempts to tackle sectarianism". The Irish Catholic also draws attention to the comments of a Belfast-based Free Presbyterian Minister who describes the Pope as "Christ's enemy and the antichrist". Rev Ian Hall also accuses Catholics of engaging in blasphemy. "I reject the Roman priesthood as a blasphemous insult to the person and finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ". Michael Kelly, Deputy Editor of The Irish Catholic said: "there is a perception that there is no longer any anti-Catholic bigotry, when the reality is it exists and has state support in Britain. "Sectarianism also goes to the heart of the new Northern Ireland Executive with First Minister Paisley refusing to discuss ecumenism with Catholics," he said. Mr Kelly went on: "It's interesting to see the outcry from some quarters when the Vatican issues a document about the Protestant churches, but these same commentators have nothing to say on such naked anti-Catholicism. "The Pope is accused of being a barrier to ecumenism, I would've thought calling the Pope the antichrist and refusing to allow a Catholic to become King or Queen of Britain is a pretty big barrier to ecumenism," Mr Kelly said. The Irish Catholic is Ireland's biggest and best-selling Catholic newspaper. It is published every Thursday.

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