“I wonder if he has been dropped because he is an embarrassment.”

The last minute substitution of one of Emperor Pope Benedict XVI’s team to visit the UK has been, officially, blamed on ill health.  The Telegraph’s “blood crazed ferret” Damian Thompson has welcomed the news that a moderate theologian, the 77-year-old Cardinal Walter Kasper, will not be part of the semi-state visit.

But I doubt the reference to “aggressive new atheism” had anything to do with it.  After all, Benedict’s been there before.

Here’s a rough translation from a FOCUS magazine report

In the interview in the current edition of the FOCUS, in answer to a question about why so many Britons expressed displeasure over the pope, [Cardinal Kasper] answered: “England is a secularized, pluralistic country today.  When you land at Heathrow airport, you sometimes think you have landed in a Third World country”.

And according to the BBC report

Vatican sources said Cardinal Kasper – who stepped down in July as the head of the department that deals with other Christian denominations – was suffering from gout and had been advised by his doctors not to travel to the UK.

They also said his “Third World” comment referred to the UK’s multicultural society. [added emphasis]

A Guardian report quotes the pope’s spokesman

The pope’s spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said tonight that the cardinal “had no negative intention, nor [a] lesser appreciation for the United Kingdom”, but had been referring to Britain’s multi-ethnic composition. He said the pope’s former adviser did, of course, recognise “the great values of British culture”.

In a statement, Lombardi said Kasper “had meant to refer to the fact that from the moment of arrival in London airport – as happens in many big metropolises of the world today, but in London particularly because the unique role played over time by the UK’s capital – you realise from the outset that you are in a country in which many human realities of the most diverse provenances and conditions meet and mingle; a crucible of today’s humanity, with its diversity and problems”. [added emphasis]

Well, that’s all right then…

And don’t even mention those supernaturalist churches who are not even churches “in the proper sense”.

Nor that attempted corporate take-over.

“Knowledge is power”, after all.

Adds Further Cardinal Kasper quotes from Andrew Brown

The Church of England, Kasper believes, has been brought to the point of schism and collapse by compromise with the spirit of the age. He says: “There is a crisis of values and direction in western society which has its roots in the Enlightenment, and was given added impetus by the radical movements of the 60s. And because the churches live in this society, their faith is weakened.”

As I’ve said before, “The Un-Enlightenment hasn’t gone away…