BELFAST City Councillors are to invite Pope Francis to the city.
Sinn Féin, the SDLP and Alliance voted in favour of the motion.
However, UUP and DUP councillors abstained in the vote despite objecting in the council chamber to the invite.
Leader of the DUP in the chamber councillor Lee Reynolds said the SDLP motion “was essentially an election stunt and it wasn’t a game we were willing to play”.
“They were wanting an insult and we weren’t going to give them that, so we chose the path of abstention,” he said.
Veteran UUP councillor and former Lord Mayor Jim Rodgers said he had decided to abstain after “giving the issue a lot of thought”.
Last week he poo-pooed the idea but his party bosses had welcomed the move.
“I am concerned at the likelihood of trouble on our streets … and I don’t want any religious or civic leader coming here to find themselves offended and see violence on a large scale,” he said.
Former lord mayor and SDLP councillor Pat McCarthy, who had proposed the motion, said he was glad that unionists had not opposed the motion.
“I’m saddened that they couldn’t find it in their hearts to support it, and send out a positive message from our city that we are progressing,” he said.
The council will now write to the Pope’s representatives and to the Northern Ireland Assembly, including the office of First and Deputy First Minister
Pope John Paul II visited Ireland in 1979 in Drogheda and Dublin’s Phoenix Park.