‘As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the 20th century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society,’ said the Pope.
Former Government speechwriter Simon Lancaster said that the speech followed in a long tradition: ‘Many of his predecessors were also wily and cunning practitioners of rhetoric.'
‘Ironically, the Pope is beating the press with a rhetorical weapon they are more used to wielding themselves. He uses his semi-alliterative pair to lock together "atheism" and "extremism", so they become inseparable in the public mind, as the tabloids achieved with other alliterative pairs such as Brussels Bureaucrats, Dangerous Dogs and even Mad Muslims,’ said Lancaster, founder of Bespoke Speeches.
Lancaster, who has recently authored Speechwriting – The Expert Guide, added that it was no accident that he used the word extremism ‘with its clear connotations with islamic extremism, and all the brutishness and savagery that implies’.
The Pope’s visit is being accompanied by a number of protests, including those who oppose the cost to the UK taxpayer of the visit, victims of child abuse from priests and human rights campaigners.
While the Pope did not make any reference to the child abuse scandal in his address, he did comment on paedophilia to the media separately, where he described it as an ‘illness’ whose sufferers had lost their free will.
‘It is difficult to understand how this perversion of the priestly mission was possible,’ he said, adding that the Church was 'at a moment of penitence, humility and renewed sincerity’.
Portland PR partner George Pascoe-Watson said: 'This was a speech intended to achieve nothing other than playing safe. He failed to mention the child abuse scandal which has scarred so many peoples' lives. Yet he chose to take a swipe at atheists, who he bracketed with the Nazis.
'It is odd he was prepared to be controversial in one way but steered clear of dealing with such an outrage as paedophilia.'