Coronavirus in Hampshire: Gosport priest condemned for urging parishioners to 'avoid the vaccination'
A PRIEST has been condemned after being caught urging parishioners to avoid the Covid-19 vaccine.
Father George Roth has sparked outrage after wrongly telling worshippers at St Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Gosport the jab was ‘bio-terrorism’ – despite it saving lives.
In an email seen by The News, and first reported by Catholic news website The Tablet, Fr Roth said people ‘pushing’ vaccinations are ‘conspiring with evil men who wish (to) de-populate our world’.
He added: ‘Do all that you can to avoid the vaccination! Your life could be in danger.’
In a blog still present on the church’s website he linked to dangerous disinformation video by Vernon Coleman, who is wrongly referred to as a doctor, talking about ‘proof the Covid-19 jabs should be stopped now’.
Former Gosport police sergeant Lesley Meenaghan lost her mother to Covid-19 last year.
She said: ‘Hearing a community figure such as a church leader advising against the Covid-19 vaccination is an affront to my mother’s death and thousands of others.’
She added: ‘I am so disappointed we still have anti-vax propaganda in Gosport, especially from people in positions of trust.
‘Having lost my mother to Covid and just today with news in the press about a healthy 42-year-old (in Merseyside) dying after refusing the vaccine, I must implore everyone to get vaccinated, not just for yourself, but for the vulnerable people around us.
‘This is the only way out of this terrible pandemic, and we must all do our duty.’
A Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth spokeswoman said: ‘The Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth is very disappointed that one of the Family of Mary Immaculate and St Francis in Gosport has publicly expressed a personal view about the Covid vaccination programme that is contrary to the official position of the Catholic Church and the Diocese.
‘The matter is being taken very seriously and an investigation is in progress.
‘The Pope has encouraged the take-up of the vaccination programme.’
She said the Vatican had made clear it did not want the vaccination to be mandatory but urged people to act for the common good.
She added: ‘In this Diocese Bishop Philip Egan has reinforced that position through publications to the diocese over past months.
‘We would encourage all our parishioners to benefit from the protection afforded by the vaccine.’
Fr Roth did not reply to an email from The News.
Gosport Borough Council leader Graham Burgess said: ‘I don’t agree with him and I believe the vaccine has saved hundreds of thousands of people.
‘We are out of the lockdown and I encourage everyone to get the jab.
‘I think what he said, from a minister of the cloth, might be his own personal view but I don’t believe it would be one of the church.
‘He’s supposed to be what you call a pillar of the community, but he doesn’t seem to be doing it.’
Fr Roth belongs to the Marian Franciscans of Gosport, set up by the bishop, and made up former members of the American organisation, the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate.
In a January sermon posed on YouTube he called abortion the ‘culture of death’ and praised former president Donald Trump's ‘draining of the swamp’.