Benedict XVI due to stay at Buckingham Palace as atheists plan swoop over child abuse scandal
THE QUEEN and the next Prime Minister are set to be thrust centre stage in the attempt to arrest the Pope, when Benedict XVI visits London in September.
Leading atheist campaigners Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens want to collar the Pontiff for his alleged cover-up of child abuse in the Catholic Church.
But they might have to get past Her Majesty and the government first, triggering a major political and constitutional crisis.
As the head of the Church of England, the Queen is due to hold talks with the Pope, who is likely to stay at Buckingham Palace during his four-day visit.
Benedict XVI is also to address both Houses of Parliament.
Those events bear the hallmarks of an official visit by a state leader, a status which would give the Pope immunity from arrest, but lawyers for Dawkins and Hitchens reckon the Vatican isn't a proper country.
"I believe an English court would reject it," said Mark Stephens, one of Dawkins' and Hitchens' lawyers.
"The Vatican is not actually a state in international law. It is not recognised by the UN, it does not have borders that are policed and its relations are not of a full diplomatic nature."
The Pope has come under pressure in recent weeks after the disclosure of a letter in which he appeared to sanction the cover up of child abuse by an American priest.
"This man is not above or outside the law," said Dawkins.
"The institutionalised concealment of child rape is a crime under any law and demands not private ceremonies of repentance or church-funded payoffs, but justice and punishment."