Secularists ask Live 8 to keep Vatican out
The National Secular Society (NSS) in Britain has written an open letter to Bob Geldof ahead of next month's Live 8 concert, urging him not to involve the Pope in supporting it. They point to the Vatican's refusal to allow the use of condoms, saying that this has helped the spread of HIV throughout the world.
NSS executive director Keith Porteous Wood says that Geldof should not have written to Pope Benedict XVI about attending the Hyde Park event, which coincides with the G8 meeting of the world's richest nations in Edinburgh.
Live 8 is seeking to put pressure on world leaders to secure debt relief, fair trade and more aid for the world's poor, particularly in Africa.
Mr Wood declared: "Inviting the Pope to Live 8 would be a slap in the face for all those currently working to stem the spread of Aids in Africa. Aids is destroying lives, communities and, ultimately, will destroy whole nations for generations to come unless greater efforts are made to check it.'
He continued: "To invite the Pope, who has supported and reinforced this inhumane policy, to an event aimed at combating poverty through protest, verges on an obscenity. The invitation must be withdrawn immediately."
At the launch of Live 8, singer Elton John also raised concerns about the invitation, saying: "When you take into consideration their (the Catholic Church's) views of contraception, and how this affects the spread of Aids... it adds to the general poverty of this region, doesn't it?"
Five free Live 8 concerts will take place simultaneously in London, Paris, Berlin, Rome and Philadelphia on 2 July 2005. The event in London's Hyde Park will feature Madonna, Robbie Williams and Paul McCartney. There has been criticism of the absence of African artists and African leadership in the initiative.
Live 8 has drawn support from people of all faiths and none. Its backers say that the aim is to galvanise the widest possible backing for change on global debt and fair trade, not to be drawn into other controversies which, while important, would detract from Live 8's central purpose.
The National Secular Society campaigns against what it believes to be the privileging of religious organisations and perspectives in public life.