The Irishworld Online

**Vatican fups up again, making thinking Catholics ashamed to be Catholic. This is almost like something off a television satire:

Highest Catholic award for Thatcher

by Paul Donovan

Baroness Margaret Thatcher has been awarded the highest honour that the Catholic Church can bestow for her work in promoting better understanding and dialogue between different faiths.

In a ceremony at Westminster Cathedral the former Prime Minister was made a Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Order of Francis I in a ceremony presided over by Cardinal Francesco Pompedda.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor was also in attendance at the ceremony where Baroness Thatcher was welcomed into the order with an insignia and scroll inscribed with her name.

Labour MP Stephen Pound was absolutely staggered by the award. “It would be difficult to find a more inappropriate recipient of a Papal honour. She is a person who has promoted division at every turn. For thousands of my constituents her policies led to unemployment, negative equity and generally promoted misery in communities,” said Pound. “Central to the ethos of Thatcher was that there was no such thing as community which runs contrary to the core teachings of the Catholic Church.”

Fr Jerry Kivlehan of the London Irish Centre expressed “incredible surprise” when he heard of the award. “She made very little effort to understand ethnic groups like the Irish. Her attitude toward the hunger strikes in Northern Ireland and the imposition of the poll tax spring to mind,” said Fr Jerry. “There are certainly others more deserving of awards for their services to the poor and marginalized in society.”

“Justice and peace activists at grassroots level will be very disappointed to hear that the Vatican is to give Margaret Thatcher a papal award. I would have thought the church's social teaching would preclude such an honour being handed to a former world leader who publicly stated that she did not believe there was such a thing as society. Her very name stands for policies such as monetarism, privatisation and hostility to trade unions which have undermined the fabric of British society,” said Ellen Teague, justice and peace activist.

At the same ceremony Paul Murphy, the Northern Ireland secretary, a practicing Catholic was invested into the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of St George.

He was made a Knight Commander of Merit with Star for helping to promote peace in Northern Ireland. “This is a considerable honour and I feel privileged to become a knight of the order,” said Murphy.

Others honoured included the former Chief of Defence staff General Lord Guthrie who was recognized for his work contributing to the life of the Catholic Church and supporting charities.

The Queen and Prime Minister Tony Blair sent messages of support.

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