Muslim Anjoum Noorani 'Head of Papal Visit Team' Attacks Pope Benedict

Vatican fury: Anjoum Noorani was in charge of a
'brainstorming' meeting which came up with the
outlandish ideas for the Pope's visit to Britain

From Daily Mail

Revealed, the papal visit chief who wrote memo mocking Pope

Hands in his pockets in a casual pose, this is the Foreign Office diplomat who wrote the memo mocking the Pope.

Anjoum Noorani was in charge of a team who came up with 'seriously offensive' proposals for Benedict XVI to open an abortion clinic and launch a brand of his own condoms.

He presided over the disastrous 'brainstorming' meeting at which he and other Whitehall officials cooked up the outlandish list of things the Pope could do when he visits Britain in September.

The extraordinary memo was written on March 5 and leaked last week, triggering a diplomatic storm and Vatican fury at 'dark forces' within the Government.

Mr Noorani, 31, is far more senior than the Foreign Office has made out. Officials desperate to limit the damage have tried to play down his role, insisting he was merely a junior worker who acted without any authority.

But in fact Mr Noorani's title is 'Head of Papal Visit Team' and he is in charge of the staff preparing for the visit.

Until 2007, he was the press secretary at the British embassy in Moscow, trusted to handle delicate relations during the crisis over the poisoning of dissident Alexanda Litvinenko.

None of the Foreign Office's Pope memo team is understood to be Catholic, according to senior sources within the Church.

They have privately expressed dismay that they were having to arrange the papal visit with officials who 'seem to know next to nothing about Catholicism'.

Mr Noorani is understood to be British Pakistani - but colleagues say he is not a Muslim.

The Church source said: 'It was obvious that none of them were much in tune with Catholic sensibilities, and that was disappointing.'

Another Church insider who met Mr Noorani when he was in Rome on a reconnaissance trip, claimed: 'He struck me as being ineffectual and quite useless. He just shuffled about and made no contribution at all.'

Instead of drawing up sensible plans for the papal trip, Mr Noorani's team ridiculed the Pope by putting forward an 'ideal visit' itinerary which included blessing a gay marriage and singing a duet with the Queen.

Vatican aides are particularly outraged the Foreign Office does not consider the memo serious enough to warrant anyone being sacked. Only Mr Noorani was disciplined and moved to 'other duties'.

Mr Noorani attended Windsor Boys' School, a comprehensive in Berkshire, and then Oxford University, graduating from Balliol College in 2000.

His Pope memo was emailed to Downing Street and three Whitehall departments by junior colleague Steven Mulvain, a 23-year-old Oxford graduate with wild spiky hair who once listed 'drinking a lot' as a hobby.

He posted a picture of himself on the internet unshaven and wearing a Chelsea football shirt.

Mr Mulvain escaped punishment because he had been given authorisation to send the memo, which had a covering letter in which he warned recipients the contents 'should not be shared externally' because they included 'even the most far-fetched of ideas'.

Mr Mulvain, who also attended Balliol, graduating in 2008, was remembered by former students as a 'prankster' who drank with a small clique of friends and 'enjoyed being in the limelight'.

Yesterday his father Kevin Mulvain, speaking at the family's home in South Shields, said: 'He's still in London. He won't be saying anything. He's keeping his head down and hoping that this whole storm just blows over.'

The Foreign Office insists none of the offensive ideas came from Mr Mulvain himself, and that he was a mere admin assistant.

An FO source said: 'This was three or four people having a 'brainstorming' session - where their brains stormed out.

'As soon as it came to the attention of more senior officials it was withdrawn and the person in charge was disciplined.'

Yesterday, although officials in Rome were trying to draw a line under the affair, privately there was still astonishment the visit had been handled with such insensitivity by Foreign Office employees.

Some fear the 83-year-old leader of the world's one billion Catholics is regarded in certain Whitehall quarters as no more than a figure of fun.

Last night a senior Roman Catholic source said: 'It does make you wonder what the Foreign Office is thinking, putting such young and inexperienced staff on the papal visit team.'

Last night Mr Noorani could not be reached. His mother in Windsor refused to comment, and the Foreign Office said it had nothing to say.

It has described the memo as 'a foolish document that does not in any way reflect UK Government or Foreign Office policy or views'.


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