Against the Pope's visit? Just 5% say yes

SCOTLAND'S sectarian wounds appear to be healing, according to a new poll that suggests that only 5 per cent of the population objects to the Pope's visit.

A survey of more than 1,000 Scots of all denominations found that only 2 per cent "strongly objected" to Pope Benedict XVI's Scottish visit while a further 3 per cent simply "objected".

At the other end of the scale, one-third of those questioned viewed the papal visit favourably.

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In a predominantly Protestant country, the majority of Scots appeared to be relaxed about the Holy Father's trip to Edinburgh and Glasgow next month with 63 per cent indicating that they were "neither for nor against it".

The poll, commissioned by the Catholic Church, was carried out by Opinion Research Business, who surveyed 1,007 adults.

Yesterday, the Catholic Church said that it was greatly encouraged by the findings, claiming that they suggested that sectarianism was less of a threat now than in 1982 when Pope John Paul II came to Scotland. Despite government fears, there were no major incidents during his two days in Scotland, although demonstrations were led by Orangemen and hardline Protestants at which 67 people were arrested.

According to the Catholic Church, today's opposition to the Pope's visit, which begins on 16 September, is far more likely to come from secularist organisations than from evangelical Protestants.

Secularist organisations object on grounds such as the allegations suggesting that the Church covered up the sexual abuse of children by clergy, or the Pope's views on homosexuality and abortion.

Protest the Pope, the pressure group involving the National Secular Society, has organised a march through London. But plans for a similar event north of the border have not materialised.

According to the Catholic Church, the poll results also run contrary to received wisdom, which suggests Scotland is getting more secular: 70 per cent considered themselves Christians - up on the 2001 census figure of 67 per cent. The poll also suggested that more people worship regularly than thought: 20 per cent said that they went to church once a week or more; 26 per cent once a month or more.