Page last updated at 14:31 GMT, Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Cardinal launches attack on Labour

Cardinal Keith O'Brien
Cardinal O'Brien said he hopes the Pope is "very strong" in his views

Scotland's most senior Roman Catholic has said he hopes the Pope will give the Labour Party "hell" when he visits later this year.

The Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, said the Pontiff should tackle ministers over their stance on moral issues.

He said he hoped Pope Benedict XVI would be "very strong" in his views.

His criticism came a day after Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy claimed faith values were at the heart of Labour.

On Tuesday Mr Murphy, who is a practising Roman Catholic, said his party best represented people with religious views and claimed that faith should play more of a role in British politics.

But the Cardinal has revealed to the BBC that he had spoken to Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray about his displeasure at the way church leaders' views had been "ignored".

Are we going to continue to observe the Christian values which we've observed for centuries or ignore them completely and slide into another abyss?
Cardinal Keith O'Brien

He said: "I said to Iain Gray 'I hope when the Pope does come he'll be very strong in what he says to you'.

"In fact the words I used were 'I hope he gives you hell for what has happened over the past 10 years'. "

Cardinal O'Brien said politicians may have listened to what he and other faith leaders have been saying on issues like abortion, euthanasia and fertilisation, but they had not acted on what they had heard.

He said established standards had been pushed aside.

The Cardinal added he was sure that Jim Murphy and other politicians would continue to listen to the views of religious groups on what is best for the country.

'Christian values'

But he asked: "Are we going to continue to observe the Christian values which we've observed for centuries or ignore them completely and slide into another abyss?"

Meanwhile, in the House of Commons, Mr Murphy refused to be drawn into the controversy which was sparked by a speech he made on Tuesday.

He was taunted over the row by the opposition parties in the Commons as he was taking monthly questions.

Although he sidestepped jibes, the row seems likely to rumble on until the Pope's visit in September.

The Scottish secretary's aides have refused to confirm whether Mr Murphy's had discussions with the the Cardinal since the disagreement emerged.

A spokesman said they were in regular contact, as arrangements for the Pope's visit are made.

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