HC Deb 21 March 1984 vol 56 cc1038-9
9. Mr. Greenway

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when last he met the Papal Pro-nuncio; when next he expects to do so; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Whitney

There has not, as yet, been an opportunity for my right hon. and learned Friend to meet the Papal Pro-nuncio, nor is any meeting currently planned. Archbishop Heim did, however, call on my right hon. and noble Friend the Minister of State on 23 February.

Mr. Greenway

Will my hon. Friend seek an early opportunity to meet the Papal Pro-nuncio for general contact reasons and in particular to express the great concern felt by Christians of all denominations, in the House and outside, about the continuing persecution of the Roman Catholic Church in Poland by an atheist regime, as expressed most recently by forbidding schools to put crucifixes and other religious symbols on classroom walls?

Mr. Whitney

It is open to His Excellency the Papal pro-nuncio to see either my right hon. and learned Friend, the Foreign Secretary or any other Foreign and Commonwealth Minister. We sympathise with the concern expressed by my hon. Friend and attach the greatest importance to religious freedom in Poland and elsewhere.

Sir John Biggs-Davison

Despite the threat to religious freedom in Poland, has not Cardinal Glemp, in obedience to the Pope, required his clergy to abstain from political activity? Might not His Excellency the Pro-nuncio have a word with the hierarchy here on this matter?

Mr. Whitney

I must resist the temptation offered by my hon. Friend to intervene in Vatican politics and diplomacy.

Mr. Skinner

If the Foreign Secretary or any of his junior Ministers meet the Pope, will they ask him how much the Vatican Bank lost as a result of the failure and bankruptcy of the Banco Ambrosiano?

Mr. Whitney

The question referred to the Papal Pro-nuncio, not the Pope. We are encouraged by reports that progress has been made towards a settlement of claims by creditors. The part played by a number of British banks has been welcomed.

Sir Bernard Braine

Is my hon. Friend aware of the urgent appeals coming out of Poland for the international community to intervene on behalf of the Solidarity leaders and members of the KOR who have been imprisoned for some years, some of whom are being grossly ill-treated, and none of whom are charged with offences that would appear in the calendar of any Western country? If arrangements are being made to see the Papal Pro-nuncio could that matter be discussed with him, with a view to raising the international community's ire on this subject?

Mr. Whitney

I take careful note of what my hon. Friend says. Our concern is for religious and other freedoms in Poland and elsewhere—for example, the freedoms that we thought we had secured under the Helsinki agreement.

Back to
Forward to