POPE JOHN PAUL was expected this week to receive Bishop Desmond Tutu, the general secretary of the South African Council of Churches in a private audience guaranteed to cause considerable embarrassment to the South African authorities.
The meeting, which was scheduled for Wednesday, was arranged with the active support of the archbishop of Canterbury.
Bishop Tutu's visit to Rome came at the end of an overseas trip in which he has strongly criticised the apartheid regime. Mr Pieter Botha. the South African Prime Minister, has said that the bishop's passport will be withdrawn on his return. Such action would be certain to provoke international protests at a time when South Africa has been working hard to improve its image overseas.
A meeting with the Pope would give a new boost to the bishop's own standing inside and outside South Africa; it would thus make it more difficult for the government to carry out its threat • to confiscate his passport for the second time. The risks to the government of further alienating world opinion were also emphasised last week by the archbishop of Caterbury's strong support for Bishop Tutu's defence of human rights in South Africa.
Describing the bishop as "a loving, sincere Christian, a man of prayer and a man of passionate conviction," Dr Runcie said: "it is the clear duty of the Christian Church to support the cause of the poor and oppressed and as a bishop of the Church, Desmond has done this without fear or favour." He said he supported Bishop Tutu "as he seeks to speak on behalf of the many who do not have a voice, or a vote."
Dr Runcie said he had asked the bishop to convey his "warm, personal greetings" to the Pope.
While in Rome Bishop Tutu also had talks with members of the Secretariat for Christian Unity. He is believed to have raised with them the question of Catholic participation in the South African Council of Churches and to have suggested that the other churches would welcome greater involvement by the Catholic Church. At the moment Catholics sit in on the Council as observers,