By Christine Lavelle
THE Reverend Ian Paisley led protests against the Pope’s visit to Britain today.
Rev Paisley, founder of the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster, was in Edinburgh along with 60 ministers from across the UK to voice their disdain for the taxpayer funded State visit.
Mr Paisley –- who sits in the House of Lords as Lord Bannside – held a service in the Magdalen Chapel in Cowgate, where John Knox once preached, and later claimed the visit was against everything the Queen stood for.
He said: “We are here for a very solemn and serious reason today, the whole day is nonsense.
“I faced the last Pope in the European Parliament when two men ran at me with knives and tried to make me a martyr, I decided not to be made a martyr.
“I have just seen the statement made today which says that if you pay £25 to be at the Mass in Scotland your sins will be forgiven.
“No man can forgive sins but Christ himself, it is misleading nonsense.
“I don’t believe the Queen will have decided to receive the Pope in a democratic way, it is against everything she stands for.”
The ministers staged their public protest holding up a banner objecting to the visit which said: ‘Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster remembering the reformation being now justified.’
The event was organised under the umbrella of the British Council of Protestant Christian Churches, of which Lord Bannside is chairman.
The group, consisting of a number of small churches from across the UK, sent a letter of protest to the Queen prior to the papal visit.
Ministers walked slowly towards the plaque commemorating the spot where many martyrs and covenanters died for the Protestant faith at the Grassmarket, to stage their protest.
They were followed by their preacher Mr Paisley, 84, who founded the Free Presbyterian Church in 1951.
When asked what he thought of taxpayers forking out the bill for the Pope’s visit, Mr Paisley simply grinned and replied: “I’m just glad I’m not an Edinburgh tax payer.”
Dr Ron Johnston, moderator of the Magdalen Chapel, preached ahead of Rev Paisley, and said: “We reject the word of the man Joseph Ratzinger, who claims he can give salvation and claims if you pay £25 to attend the Mass in Glasgow you will have years of purgatory with your sins – there is no such thing.
“The Pope claims he is another Christ, but there is only one Christ and we stand for salvation through him alone – not from the word of a man.
“No sacrifice but Christ.
“We believe in the protestant reformation, and we stand here to celebrate it today – we stand for the same principles that John Knox did.
“How dare the Pope come here on the 450th anniversary of the reformation?”
The protesters handed out leaflets to the public, explaining why they opposed the Papal visit, which says it is not because of ‘blind sectarianism’.
They also stood in the Grassmarket for around 15 minutes singing hymns and saying prayers.
Onlooker Lynn Wild, 53, from Edinburgh said: “I think that I’m a bit torn about it all.
“I don’t really think they should be using tax payers’ money, as most people aren’t even Catholic.
“It is good the protesters are here, someone has to put a voice to the other side and balance it all up.”
Christine MacBean, 30, from Newcastle, said: “We aren’t in Edinburgh to see the Pope or any of this but it has been very interesting.
“I’m not getting involved in any kind of religious arguments; I think both sides make good points.”
“We just saw the Pope about half an hour ago and came down here and saw this.
“It’s very entertaining.”