England a “Third World” Country?

There is a funny little story going around about comments made by Cardinal Kasper about England and surmising that this is the reason he is not accompanying the Pope on his journey to England. Cathnews picked it up, but the source is here, on the website of the German magazine Focus.

A google translation of the Focus article reads:

Cardinal Walter Kasper is too embarrassed to accompany the Pope to Britain? The British media are in any case after Kaspers interview with FOCUS.
A FOCUS interview makes headlines in the UK: Cardinal Kasper’s comparison of the island with a land of “Third World” should have led to Kasper, differently than planned, not the Pope, accompanied on his trip to England and Scotland, British media speculating.

In the interview in the current issue of FOCUS Kasper replied to the question of why so many Britons expressed their displeasure with the pope: “England is now a secular, pluralistic country. If you land at Heathrow Airport, you sometimes think you had landed in a third world country. “Kasper also affirmed the question of whether Christians would suffer in the kingdom, and said:” Particularly in New England is an aggressive atheism spread . If you are around at British Airways and carrying a cross, you will be penalized. But we want to show our faith in public. Anyone who knows England knows that there is also a great Christian tradition. Europe would no longer be Europe if it could not maintain this tradition. ”

Kasper was referring to a four-year-old case of an employee of British Airways, which had been prohibited, while working a necklace with a cross over her uniform, and thus contribute to visible to customers. The case had been matter of dispute in the UK.

When it was announced on Wednesday that Kasper “health reasons” other than scheduled will not accompany the pope, British media immediately drew the connection to Kasper’s statements in the FOCUS interview.

On the other hand stressed Kaspers spokesman, Oliver Lahl, the Cardinal was really ill. And indeed, the cardinal health problems have been known for some time. Moreover, the Vatican has since tried to straighten Kaspers “Third World”-Quote: Kasper had referred to the great international importance of London, with its cosmopolitan population. The observation of the Cardinal over the “aggressive new atheism is true” some well-known authors that appear aggressive and make scientific or cultural arguments, but which are not really of such great value,” the Vatican was trying to clarify.

British journalists, however, presented this declaration is not completely satisfied. “To make these remarks on the eve of the journey was a little awkward,” said relatively restrained the Rome correspondent for the BBC, David Willey. Much more violent reaction Clifford Langley of the Catholic weekly newspaper The Tablet. ” The Cardinal speaks “clearly nonsense,” Langley said the BBC. “I do not think he believes Britain were in the grip of a secular atheism, and he had not said that. They claim that his poor health had forced him to cancel the tour. I wonder if he has not called off because his presence would be embarrassing now. ”

British Airways defended himself, the Cardinal was “seriously misinformed” about the case of employees, the crucifix she was not allowed: “It is completely untrue that we discriminate against Christians or the followers of any faith.” The employee had lost two years ago, a labor court against the airline. Beginning of the year and of appeal judges ruled in favor of British Airways. The “Daily Telegraph” points out that Pope Benedict “contrary to the tradition,” will just take the return flight with Alitalia rather than with the former state airline of the host country, British Airways.

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “England a “Third World” Country?

  1. Tony

    In this context, David, you might be interested in the article on The Punch: Please God spare us the born-again atheists.

    I also found Pembo’s reference to the Centre for Public Christianity an interesting tangent.

  2. Peregrinus

    There may be less in this than meets the eye. I’m guessing there’s a Chinese whispers effect at work here, with the original interview in Focus (what’s Focus?) being paraphrased in this article, and then being further paraphrased in re-reports in other papers, translated, commented on, etc. At no point are we hold what questions Kasper was answering, how his “third world” comments relate to his “secular” comments, or what his overall point was.

    Couple of thoughts:

    – Most of the angst seems to revolve around the “third world” comment. This is probably particularly offensive because it is undeniably true. Heathrow Airport is a complete dump, and would disgrace most third-world capitals. I’ve spent many ghastly, alienated hours there, and I count every one of them wasted. My image of hell is of an eternity spent in a place like Heathrow Airport. I can understand by British people don’t like this to be pointed out, and it was perhaps indelicate of Kasper to mention it. But, hey, don’t shoot the messenger.

    – And what’s it got to do with being secular and pluralist? Third world countries, for the most part, aren’t noted for secularism or pluralism. We associate these with the developed west. I’m guessing that two different answers to two completely different questions are being conflated here.

    – I’m a bit surprised at the suggestion that Walter Kasper employs “pluralist” as a pejorative. Context, please.

    • P., so true, so very true.

      I had thought Rome airport was dingy, but Heathrow was the pits! It looked obsolescent and broken-down, sort of like “the Estate” on The Bill.

      I also remember the astonishingly rude customs officer, who spoke to me with utter contempt. It was not so much “Welcome to Britain” as “Naff off!”.

      I think it was that combination of dirt and rudeness that the good Cardinal was referring to…

    • Douglas Adams, an Englishman, once wrote that it was entirely understandable that no language or culture on earth had coined the phrase “as pretty as an airport”… He was probably thinking of Heathrow!

  3. While the timing and comment is yet another of thsoe amateurish blunders that Vatican officials have become so famous for these days, I have to say that his basic observations aren’t too far off the mark!

    The endless factory-like halls of Heathrow are a stark contrast to classier dromes of continental Europe, and any thought that England remains an Anglo-Saxon country will quickly be banished in the seas of faces one encounters in service roles in London.

    And read any of the British blogs and you will see that the stories of the persecution of Christians in British workplaces, social life and more just keep on coming…

    • Peregrinus

      Although media comment has tended to present Kasper’s “third world” comment as a reference to the ethnically diverse character of British society, Kasper’s comments – in so far as I’ve seen them directly reported – don’t make that link. And, again, I’m sceptical because (a) I don’t think Kasper would see ethnic diversity as problematic; he is, after all, a Cardinal of the Catholic Church, and (b) anybody whose ever been to Heathrow Airport knows that this comment is fully explicable by reference to the squalor, disorganisation, overcrowding and general decrepitude of its buildings, services and facilities.

  4. Matthias

    Britain a Third world country? Well it is a place run run by politically correct imperialistic fascists,and I am not meaning the Government-rather the civil service and the unrepresentative elite such as Peter tatchell,Germain -bitter womb-Greer and Geoffrey robinson and his wife Kathy letter belong.

  5. Yes, I suspect a fair poll of Heathrow-transiting persons would confirm that the Cardinal spoke the truth.