THE prospects of a visit by the Pope to Ireland next summer have receded , as the Government's relations with the Vatican sharply deteriorated.
In his first comment on the Cloyne Report, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said it was "disgraceful" that the Vatican ignored child protection safeguards agreed by the Irish bishops.
Mr Kenny's criticism was a prelude to the Papal Nuncio being summoned to Iveagh House, where Tanaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore demanded an explanation for Rome's "inappropriate" intervention in Irish affairs.
An apologetic Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza undertook to deliver the report to the Vatican.
Unlike ex-Taoiseach Brian Cowen and his then Foreign Minister Micheal Martin, who last year sided with the Vatican's rights to diplomatic immunity in the wake of the Murphy Report, Mr Kenny and Mr Gilmore went on the offensive.
Their focus on the Congregation of Clergy's dismissal of the Irish bishops' 1996 Groundwork Document as "a mere study document" at loggerheads with canon law has put the Vatican in an indefensible position.
Vatican watchers said that the stridency of the Irish protest has put a dent in its strategy of regaining control of church renewal in Ireland via this year's probe by a number of senior foreign prelates.
Sources suggested that Pope Benedict XVI postponed his response to the investigators' recommendations until early next year, when it was expected he would announce his intention to attend next June's Eucharistic Congress in Ireland.
But the renewal of a second wave of anti-Vatican anger in Ireland could upset this schedule, the sources added.
The mystery surrounding the whereabouts of the disgraced ex-Bishop of Cloyne John Magee has compounded anger.
A spokesman for Cashel Archbishop Dermot Clifford said: "Bishop Magee is a retired bishop and is accountable only to the Pope."
The buck must stop with Pope Benedict. His official copy of the Cloyne Report is about to land on his desk.