Toronto Paisleyites agree with papal protest

  • September 20, 2010
Toronto Free Presbyterian ChurchTORONTO - The Toronto Free Presbyterian Church stands behind its Ulster-based brethren in protesting Pope Benedict XVI's visit to England and Scotland.

The tiny Toronto church protested Pope John Paul II's visit in 2002, and would do so again if the Pope were ever to visit Canada, said Toronto Free Presbyterian Church senior pastor Larry Saunders.

"My concern, my opposition to the Pope coming as a representative of the Catholic Church is that he comes not just as a religious leader. He comes as also the head of state," said Saunders.

About 60 Northern Irish Free Presbyterian ministers and elders travelled to Edinburgh to protest against Pope Benedict XVI Sept. 17. Rev. Ian Paisley, founder of the breakaway Presbyterians known as the Wee Frees, led the group.

"We are here for a very solemn and serious reason today, the whole day is nonsense," Paisley told the press in Scotland.

Paisley, who sits in the House of Lords as Lord Bannside, claimed the Pope's visit was against everything the Queen stands for.

In an interview with The Catholic Register, Saunders echoed Paisley's objection.

"With the Pope visiting, that is an affront to the Protestant people, there's no doubt about that," he said.

Saunders claimed that prior to the regency of King William and Queen Mary in 1689, the Catholic Church controlled Britain religiously and politically.

"I think from that time onwards there has been an effort or a desire to regain that again in some respect — religiously, politically or maybe both together," Saunders said.

The Free Presbyterian Church has no association with the Presbyterian Church of Canada.

Saunders objects to the 1999 Lutheran-Catholic Joint Declaration on Justification by Faith, and rejects ecumenism as a compromise at the expense of truth.

"From my point of view, I think there is absolutely no common ground there," he said.

In 2002 members of Saunders' congregation stood on Bloor Street handing out Bible tracts and preaching against Pope John Paul II as he visited Toronto for World Youth Day.

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