Page last updated at 09:47 GMT, Monday, 29 March 2010 10:47 UK

Sir Reg Empey urges caution over Order's Pope protest

Sir Reg Empey
Sir Reg Empey said the Pope is entitled to visit the UK

Sir Reg Empey has urged the Orange Order to be cautious over calls to protest against the Pope's visit to Britain later this year.

The Ulster Unionist leader, who is himself an Orangeman, said it put the Queen in a very difficult position.

The Orange Order said it cannot welcome the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Great Britain for "biblical reasons".

It has called on UK citizens, especially its members, to demonstrate against the visit.

However, Sir Reg said this could be unwise.

"The head of a church is entitled to participate in a pastoral visit to the members of that church," he said.

"The danger for some Orange brethren is that they need to be careful of the position the Queen is in as a head of state.

"The Pope can only come to the UK on her invitation and I think great care will have to be taken on how people deal with that."

The trip, which does not include Northern Ireland, is the first official state visit by a Pontiff to the UK.

The Orange Order is a Protestant organisation which regards itself as defending civil and religious liberties of Protestants and seeks to uphold the rule and ascendancy of a Protestant monarch in the United Kingdom.

It is best known for its parades in Northern Ireland and many senior unionist politicians are members.

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