Debate over Vatican message snub
Published 30/12/2011 | 05:00
THE current frosty relationship between Ireland and the Vatican would have been unimaginable to the civil servants who drew up 80th birthday greetings to Pope Paul VI in 1977.
Two messages, sent on behalf of President Patrick Hillery and Taoiseach Jack Lynch, are included in the 1981 state papers.
They are part of a file reflecting a debate in the Department of Foreign Affairs on whether Garret FitzGerald's newly elected government should send a message of homage to Pope John Paul.
This had occasionally occurred in the past.
A note from an official in the Department of the Taoiseach revealed that the practice of sending messages of support to the Pope had begun in 1948 when John A Costello's inter-party government had come to power. This message was acknowledged within a few days.
On returning to power in 1951, Eamon DeValera told the first meeting of his new government that "he desired to convey to His Holiness filial loyalty and devotion". This message was also acknowledged.
But another message, again sent by Mr Costello when he took over as Taoiseach in 1954, was not acknowledged by the Vatican, a snub that seemed to have gone down badly in the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Ultimately, the official in the Department of the Taoiseach recommended that the election of Mr FitzGerald's government was not "the time to revive the practice".