Foreign Office 'sorry' for Pope blooper

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The Foreign Office has publicly apologised after an official document suggested Britain should mark the Pope's visit by asking him to open an abortion clinic, bless a gay marriage and launch a range of Benedict-branded condoms.

The document, obtained by a Sunday newspaper, also suggested Benedict XVI could show his hard line on the sensitive issue of child abuse allegations against Roman Catholic priests by "sacking dodgy bishops" and launching a helpline for abused children.

The ideas were included in a paper titled "The ideal visit would see..." which was distributed to officials in Whitehall and Downing Street preparing for the historic visit in September. A cover note said the paper stemmed from a brainstorming session and accepted that some of the ideas were "far-fetched".

Many of the proposals appeared to mock the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church on issues like abortion, homosexuality and contraception and the difficulties which it is currently experiencing over cases of child abuse.

The Foreign Office, though, apologised for what it described as a "foolish" document and said the individual responsible had been transferred to other duties. Foreign Secretary David Miliband was said to have been "appalled" to hear of the paper.