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Pope to be Arrested in Great
Catholic organisations question the judgment of those
seeking to indict the Pope
Provided to The Remnant by the Thomas More Legal
Recent news reports and an article have suggested that his
Holiness Pope Benedict XVI might be arrested on his
forthcoming state visit to Britain at the invitation of the
Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and indicted at the
International Criminal Court (ICC) for (unspecified) “crimes
News reports seem to have completely misrepresented the law.
The enforcement of criminal law is a duty of the state and
is not the job of private vigilantes pursuing a personal
There is not a single criminal offence under British law
which could conceivably be alleged against Pope Benedict but
by invoking the name of the ICC there is a serious
misrepresentation of the role of that Court.
The ICC was created in order to deal with what the Rome
Statute (the international treaty establishing the ICC)
refers to as the “most serious crimes of concern to the
international community as a whole”: the crime of genocide,
crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of
aggression. The Rome Statute makes it clear that the
purpose of the ICC is in situations (such as that obtaining
in the Congo) where normal government and the rule of law
has broken down leading to the urgent need for an impartial
“Crimes against humanity” only arise “when committed as
part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against
any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack”.
There is no foundation for such a claim against the Pope and
it is risible.
The power exercised by Roman Catholic bishops in law relates
to their position as employers, school governors, trustees
etc., under English law. None of these offices are held by
the Pope. His influence is exercised through the purely
voluntary obedience of Catholics. Without direct legal power
no duty in law can be justly implied. Even the appointment
of bishops is not always recognised by some countries.
Moreover, the Pope is visiting the UK in his capacity as a
head of state and spiritual leader and on the direct
invitation of Prime Minister Gordon Brown. As such he enjoys
immunity from arrest and prosecution in the UK Courts.
The status of the Pope as a head of state, and indeed the
status of the Vatican City State itself, cannot be
challenged in the UK Courts or the European Court of Human
Rights. Sovereignty and statehood are matters of fact in
international law and under UK Law the decision of the
Government to recognise a foreign state is conclusive.
The European Court of Human Rights has no power to determine
whether the Vatican City State is, or is not, a state. It
only has jurisdiction to determine whether the European
Convention on Human Rights has, or has not, been breached by
the member states of the Council of Europe. This is
elementary legal knowledge.
The independence and statehood of the Vatican City State and
of the Holy See are recognised diplomatically by a majority
of countries including the UK, the USA, all the member
countries of the European Union and members of the Council
of Europe. The UK maintains an embassy and ambassador to the
as do 177 other countries including the Republic of Italy,
which in its Constitution specifically recognises the
independence of the Vatican City State.
Anyone is, of course, entitled to disagree with Gordon
Brown’s decision to invite the Pope to Britain.
Nevertheless, responsible commentators ought to weigh
carefully the possible consequences of this campaign of
vilification against Pope Benedict XVI.
An attempt was made on the life of Pope John Paul II by an
assassin in 1982. Many public figures face dangers of this
sort in today’s world.
If a protester is incited to perform a publicity stunt such
as a citizen’s arrest of the Pope, then police officers will
be put in a difficult position.
Faced with having to make a swift decision as to whether a
situation is a publicity stunt, a lawful protest or an
attempt on the life or limb of the Pope, the consequences of
any such decision might be serious and involve innocent
bystanders. Some attempts to detain suspected terrorists
have gone wrong in recent times. Moreover, there was a
recent assault attempt against the Pope in St. Peter’s
Incitement to religious hatred is a criminal offence and has
public order ramifications. Moreover, religious vilification
against the Pope may ultimately result in the same happening
to innocent British Catholics.
Pope Benedict XVI is visiting Britain at the invitation of
the British government. He is entitled, whilst in Britain,
to the protection of the law and to be treated as a visiting
Head of State and a guest and not to be placed in danger by
foolish publicity stunts orchestrated by those with an
ulterior motive and ideological agenda.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
JAMES BOGLE (Barrister), Chairman, the Catholic Union of
Great Britain – 07773 818394
NEIL ADDISON (Barrister), Director, the Thomas More Legal
Centre – 07970 981352