Members of the Free Presbyterian Church may protest the visit of Pope Francis to Ireland in 2018 after one of their leaders denounced the trip – the first to be made by a pontiff for nearly 40 years.
Speaking to one of Northern Ireland’s main daily newspapers, News Letter, Revd Ian Brown of the Martyrs’ Memorial Church in Belfast said, “the only proper response to his high publicity visit is a solid protest” because the Pope is “no closer to proclaiming the one true biblical Gospel - that salvation is by faith alone through Christ alone”.
Now-retired Free Presbyterian Minister Revd David Mcllveen said he also believed it was his duty to hold a “peaceful protest” against the Pope, whom he says has usurped the position held by Jesus Christ as “Vicar or Christ on the Earth”.
The Church, which was founded by loyalist politician Revd Ian Paisley in 1951 and now includes 100 churches globally, protested the visit of Pope Benedict to the UK in 2010.
Meanwhile the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Methodist Church in Ireland and Church of Ireland welcomed the news and the Evangelical Alliance’s David Smyth supported the visit on the grounds of “religious freedom”.
The official visit was confirmed yesterday by Ireland’s Prime Minister Enda Kenny. Following a 23-minute audience with Pope Francis in the Vatican, he tweeted: "Pope Francis has been an important voice for the young, the poor & disadvantaged - glad he will visit Ireland in 2018."
It comes after a formal invitation from the Irish Catholic Bishops for the Pope to attend the 2018 World Meeting of Families, which is scheduled to take place in Dublin.
Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, said he wouldn’t rule out a visit by the Pope to Northern Ireland. “One could imagine a gesture of Pope Francis – because he is a man of gesture – a gesture of bringing communities together.”
He added: “And the one thing about Pope Francis is you can do all the planning you like but in the end he is the one who surprises everyone.”
Photo: Northern Ireland's Revd Ian Paisley, who died in 2014, interrupts Pope John Paul II in the European Parliament in Strasbourg in 1988. Paisley holds a banner reading "John Paul II Anti-Christ".