Vatican Spokesman Dismisses U.K. Arrest Challenge as a Publicity Stunt

An effort by two prominent atheist pundits to block Pope Benedict XVI’s state visit to the U.K. on legal grounds was dismissed as a publicity stunt, by official Vatican spokesman Frederico Lombardi. Lombardi described the effort by Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens as “original.” Well, maybe not entirely original. Similar legal principles were used to arrest Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet during his visit in 1998. The comparison alone makes for an uncomfortable situation amidst mounting dissent over numerous sex abuse scandals worldwide.

“For the moment it appears to be merely a stunt to get public attention,” said Lombardi during a presser yesterday. “It would be very curious for the Pope to be arrested during a state visit,” he continued.

Dawkins did clarify the nature of the stunt on his site recently: “Even if the Pope doesn’t end up in the dock, and even if the Vatican doesn’t cancel the visit, I am optimistic that we shall raise public consciousness to the point where the British government will find it very awkward indeed to go ahead with the Pope’s visit, let alone pay for it.”

Dawkins and Hitchens are both masters of publicity, and have related books in print including “The God Delusion” and “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything” respectively.

Publish date: April 14, 2010 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT