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Before State Visit, Pope Benedict XVI Aide Analogizes U.K. To 'Third World Country'

German Cardinal Walter Kasper waves as he passes Swiss Guards while leaving a meeting to prepare the next conclave at the Synod Hall on April 14, 2005. Mario Tama/Getty Images Europe hide caption

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Mario Tama/Getty Images Europe

Pope Benedict XVI is traveling to England and Scotland, for a four-day trip. It is the first official state visit by a pope, and the first papal trip to the United Kingdom in almost three decades.

The trip isn't without controversy.

Fifty public figures — including Stephen Fry, Richard Dawkins and Ken Follett — signed a letter to the editor of The Guardian, arguing Pope Benedict doesn't deserve a state visit.

At a news conference yesterday, abuse survivors demanded "truth, justice and accountability."

Now, one of the pope closest advisers, Cardinal Walter Kasper, a German-born, septuagenarian prelate, has decided to withdraw from the trip — "for health reasons," the Vatican says.

Many people suspect there is another explanation. Kasper told Focus, a German magazine, that Christians face discrimination in the United Kingdom, and, "above all, an aggressive new atheism has spread through Britain."

According to the BBC, he said that "arriving at Heathrow airport was like landing in a 'Third World' country."

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