This week, the parliament meets in Strasbourg, and members will be addressed by Pope Francis. When a Pontiff last visited the Parliament some 26 years ago, the then Northern Ireland MEP, Ian Paisley protested, denouncing John Paul ll as the Antichrist.
On this occasion, humanist organisations have written to Martin Schultz, the Parliament’s President, stating that it is inappropriate for a religious leader to be invited to address a secular parliament. The address by the Pope will be watched with interest, as he sets out the church’s vision of Europe’s role for the twenty first century. Some level of protest is expected, which results in heightened security controlling the public’s access to the Parliament.
Ten days ago a topless protest against the visit was staged at the Vatican by Feman, a Paris based feminist organisation. They originated in Ukraine and appear to have a few hundred activists with a larger following on social media. Juncker’s troubles arising from the alleged tax avoidance schemes, which operated during the period when he was Luxembourg’s Prime Minister continue. He now faces a motion of censure tabled by the far-right, Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group, comprised mainly of UKIP and Italy’s Five Star Movement. They are joined by France’s Marine Le Pen, other far-right and non-aligned MEPs making up the 76 signatures required to sponsor the petition. The far-left GUE group, of which Sinn Fein and Luke Ming Flanagan are members, failed in their attempt to attract sufficient numbers for their motion. The two groups’ combined total fall well short of the number required to pass the resolution, so it is difficult to see how there is any real prospect of the motion attaining sufficient votes to be adopted. But the issue seems likely to continue to cause Juncker problems over the immediate future.