Thursday 23 March 2017

Pope would be treated with respect on visit, Taoiseach tells Dail

THE Pope will be treated with respect if he comes to Ireland, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said as he insisted the closure of the Vatican embassy was not about religion.

Under pressure from Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin to reverse the decision, Mr Kenny said Pope Benedict would be welcomed in a manner befitting his position.

"If the Government receives an indication of the intention of the Pope, who has been invited by the bishops, to travel to Dublin to the Congress, the Government will receive the Pope with proper decorum and respect of both his position and his status," he said.

Pope Benedict has been asked to attend the 50th Eucharistic Congress in June.

The Taoiseach rejected suggestions that reopening Ireland's diplomatic mission in the Holy See was necessary to pursue child abuse and protection issues.

"We had people on the ground in the Vatican for very many years, and look what happened and what was allowed to happen," Mr Kenny told the Dail.

"Don't come in here and tell me ... that simply by putting somebody on the ground that that deals with the sensitive and personal issue that was such a scar on our land and on our people.

"Insofar as people want to say that this is anything to do with religious beliefs, let me assure you that the relations between this Government and the Catholic Church authorities is now more real than it has been for many years."

The closure of the embassy, ending Ireland's 83-year diplomatic presence in the Vatican, was confirmed last November by Tanaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore on economic grounds. The move could save almost 600,000 euro a year based on last year's running costs.

Mr Kenny said Mr Martin's criticisms were an attempt to hype up controversy around the closure.

"Having eyes and ears on the ground in my view is the best way to ensure that the Vatican's policies and position on child abuse and child protection is in line with Irish Government policies," Mr Martin said.

"I think it is fair to say that the Irish embassy in the Vatican was never about economics, never about trade, or, indeed, money."

Missions in Tehran, Iran and Timor Leste were also shut and the Taoiseach has insisted that decisions would be reviewed in the future by the Government.

David Cooney, secretary general at the Department of Foreign Affairs, has taken up the role of non-resident ambassador to the Holy See.

Archbishop Charles John Brown has been appointed Papal Nuncio to Ireland and is due to meet President Michael D Higgins tomorrow to present his credentials.

He also said the church was working diligently with Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald on child protection.

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