An embarrassed British government on Sunday apologised to the Pope over an “insulting'' Foreign Office memo which suggested that during his visit to the U.K. in the autumn he could be asked to open an abortion clinic, bless a gay marriage and sack “dodgy'' bishops involved in child abuse scandal.

The document, which found its way to the front page of The Sunday Telegraph, provoked fury in the Vatican and the Catholic Church in the U.K. with the Bishop of Nottingham, Malcolm McMahon, calling it “appalling''.

“I think it's a lot worse that we invite someone into our country — a person like the Pope — and then he's treated in this way. I think it's appalling manners more than anything else,” he said.

The Foreign Office was quick to condemn it saying it was a “foolish'' document which did not reflect the government's views. Foreign Secretary David Miliband said he was “appalled'' while British Ambassador to the Vatican, Francis Campbell, met senior officials to express regret.

A Foreign Office spokesman said the document, drafted by a junior official who has since been transferred to other duties, was not cleared or shown to Ministers before it was circulated.

“As soon as senior officials became aware of the document, it was withdrawn from circulation,'' he said.

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