POVERTY, human rights, international aid and climate change were all on the agenda when Borders MP and Secretary of State Michael Moore met His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI during a visit to the Vatican last week to mark the 30th anniversary of the establishment of full diplomatic relations between the UK and the Holy See in 1982.
Ahead of the ministerial delegation received by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday, February 15, Mr Moore also met a number of Cardinals and Archbishops in a series of meetings.
They discussed the work of the UK Government in delivering international aid and Mr Moore underlined the commitment to helping the world’s poorest people by becoming the first G20 country to adhere to the pledge to spend 0.7% of our gross national income on overseas assistance.
Afterwards Mr Moore said: “This visit stressed the many areas of common interest which exist between the UK and the Holy See such as the global fight against poverty, overseas development and taking steps to combat climate change.
“I regularly receive correspondence from my constituents on these vital issues so I was pleased to be able to discuss them with His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI during my visit.
“We had a very constructive exchange of views on ways we can continue to work together across social, economic and cultural issues for the wider good.”
Mr Moore also took part in a roundtable meeting between the UK Government and the Holy See in the Vatican led by the Rt Hon Baroness Warsi and His Excellency Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for Relations with States.
They discussed the importance of the visit and the willingness of the government to work with the Holy See across a wide range of issues, while welcoming the positive role of the Catholic Church in British society.
The UK delegation included the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Minister of State for International Development, Minister of State, Department for Energy and Climate Change, and Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office. However, a row blew up after the Scottish Government and the Cathlic Church in Scotland took exception to the omission of Cardinal Keith O’Brien in the official party, a spokesman for the Catholic Church describing it as “unfortunate”.
Cardinal O’Brien is president of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland and the most senior UK catholic.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, president of the Bishops’ Conference for England and Wales was also part of the delegation, but his counterparts in Scottish and Ireland were not.
A Scottish Office spokesman explained: “The party was made up of ministers. An invitation was extended to Cardinal O’Brien to join the delegation for the official dinner, which was hosted by the Holy See.”