John Knox welcome for the Pope's Scotland tour

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Zoë Keown

POPE Benedict is set to be welcomed to Scotland by a John Knox look-alike.

An actor resembling the leader of Scotland’s Protestant Reformation has been hired by the Catholic Church in a parade featuring many of the nation’s leading historical figures.

Alongside 1,000 pipers, the Knox actor will be joined by the likes of St Andrew, St Ninian, St Margaret and St Colomba.

Robert the Bruce, William Wallace, Bonnie Prince Charlie, Mary Queen of Scots, Eric Liddell and Alexander Fleming will also escort the Popemobile along Princes Street.

The Pontiff’s September visit coincides with the 450th anniversary of the Reformation, which outlawed Catholic mass, and withdrew the pope’s power in Scotland.

United

Despite this, the Catholic Church in Scotland and Church of Scotland are both welcoming the historic figure’s appearance and using it as an opportunity to unite a shared Christian heritage rather than divide.

Peter Kearney, spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland said: “We have a shared Christian history and we are celebrating that.

“Each character, including Knox, will be played by an amateur actor and be in historically accurate costume.

“They will march down Princes Street before the Popemobile.

“By including Knox, we are highlighting our shared Christian heritage.”

Struggle

A Church of Scotland spokesman said: “It is a sign of a healthy nation that diversity within the Christian community is something to be celebrated as opposed to a source of division and struggle.

“It is a gift to those of us of a Protestant persuasion that by including this figure, the Catholic Church is contributing to the celebrations of the Reformation.”

The Scottish government have however been criticised for neglecting Reformation’s anniversary.

Professor Donald Macleod, former principal of the Free Church College in Edinburgh, said that the SNP were in “Knox denial” while Catholic Historian Professor, Tom Devine, called the low-key marking of the anniversary “scandalous”.

First Minister Alex Salmond has said that government requests to support the marking of the 450 anniversary would be considered.

The Pope’s four-day visit to the UK will begin on September 16.