Thursday 8 December 2016

Papal Nuncio's days of power and glory are at an end

Published 23/07/2011 | 05:00

Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, the 10th representative of the Pope and career diplomat of the Holy See, must pine for days of power and glory when his predecessors enjoyed awesome political clout and enormous social influence.

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With the Vatican being damned by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, scolded by Tanaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore, and mauled verbally by all sides in Dail Eireann, the 67-year-old Italian was told he was living in the Republic of Ireland of 2011, not in the Vatican, the refugee-centre of paedophile clerics.

Leanza's treatment contrasts with January 1930 when Archbishop Paschal Robinson (pictured below) became the first Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland since Archbishop Rinnuccini in the 17th century.

Welcomed by fawning government ministers and bishops on arrival at Dun Laoghaire, the Dublin-born, but American-reared, Robinson was driven in triumph along streets lined by fervent Dubliners waving papal flags.

Robinson, a bearded Franciscan friar vowed to poverty, was installed regally in the former Imperial Chief Secretary's Lodge in the Phoenix Park, now the residence of the American ambassador.

The splendid but dilapidated building had been refurbished by the Office of Public Works and was made available to 'Robbo' by the Government, courtesy of hard-pressed but uncomplaining taxpayers.

As a special mark of deference, the Government conferred social distinction on the Pope's man by making him automatically the Dean, or head, of the Dublin diplomatic corps.

Politicians, civil servants, pious priests and zealous laity vied for the Nuncio's ear, and duly received papal knighthoods and Bene Merenti (good conduct) medals.

After Robinson's death, his successor, the elderly Archbishop Ettore Felici, was welcomed in 1952 with a Te Deum in Dublin's Pro-Cathedral -- but within weeks his corpse was laid out in the same sacred building, amid a suspension of the Dail, full pomp of Church and State, and universal public grief.

When Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza arrived in Ireland in April 2009, he must have felt he had landed a cushy pre-retirement posting.

Armed with a canon law doctorate, he joined the Vatican's diplomatic service in 1972, serving in Paraguay, Uganda, the US, Haiti, Zambia, Malawi, Bosnia Herzegovina, Slovenia, Macedonia and Bulgaria.

Last year, faceless Leanza faced down knee-bending Brian Cowen and Micheal Martin in the seismic public shift to anti-Vaticanism after the Murphy Report into the Dublin Archdiocese.

This time, Leanza may be sent back to his residence on the Navan Road with his tail between his legs.

John Cooney

Indo Review

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