Pope Francis invited to St Andrews to oppose extremism

Pope Francis. Picture: GettyPope Francis. Picture: Getty
Pope Francis. Picture: Getty
The Pope has been invited to make a private visit to Scotland to add his backing to a charter against religious extremism.

The possible one-day trip to St Andrews in September would be the first by Pope Francis to the UK since he became pope three years ago.

The pontiff is among religious leaders who have been asked by an academic at the town’s university who has with links with him.

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The Catholic Church in Scotland confirmed today the invitation had been made by Professor Mario Aguilar, but said no response had been received.

However, the professor of religion and politics was reported to have said he understood the Pope was interested and had put it on his “agenda of activities”.

Prof Aguilar said he had received a letter from Rome via the Vatican embassy in London that indicated the invitation was being considered.

He said: “Further arrangements will be discussed.

“I have had an indication that his visit is being considered.”

The church said Prof Aguilar had also invited other spiritual leaders, including the Dalai Lama, to sign the charter calling for all faiths to unite against radicalisation.

The academic has met Pope Francis several times and wrote a biography of him in 2014.

The Pope is reported to have told aides he regards the charter as “very positive”.

Prof Aguilar said: “If he agrees to come,it will be in a private capacity in response to an academic invitation.

“It will not be a pastoral visit.”

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The university is holding a conference on 23 September, when the anti-extremism declaration is due to be signed by religious, diplomatic and community leaders before being circulated to schools in 150 countries.