Apparently Mid-Ulster DUP MLA Ian McCrea has said that 'a majority of people in the North are Protestant and belong to denominations that believe the Pope is the anti-Christ', that the Catholic hierarchy has been complicit in sexual abuse cases and a Papal visit would "feel the vent of Protestant opposition".
Coming soon after similar promises of opposition from ex-DUP ministerial advisor Wallace Thompson, such comments are starting to show a pattern of DUP antagonism to a possible papal visit.
Such comments, though disgraceful, bigoted and hypocritical, are not surprising. Nobody who knows the DUP or its members would be surprised by the reaction. But the fact that the DUP is still the largest unionist party, and thus the preferred mouthpiece of a plurality of unionist voters, gives its bigotry extra significance. Unless the unionist electorate clearly rejects the DUP and its even more extreme cousin, the TUV, the only conclusion that nationalists and centrists can draw is that such bigotry is representative of unionism as a whole.
Civic unionists, church leaders, community leaders, business people and other influential members of the unionist community must speak out in opposition to the DUP's Neanderthal bigotry, and must make it clear that the pope, as head of the largest Christian denomination in Northern Ireland, is welcome to visit. Failure to do so will be seen as tacit agreement with the DUP.