Taoiseach issues invite to Pope Francis to visit Ireland
Published 27/04/2014 | 14:58
Mr Kenny made the announcement today after he met with the pontiff after the double canonisation of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II in St Peter's Square.
"I invited him to Ireland, and while it's not an official responsibility of the Government, I did say that if the Church authorities extended an invitation and he's willing to travel, the Government will see to it that everything is done to make that visit a real success."
He added: "It would be my hope that if it does happen, that the Pope would travel to Northern Ireland as well, given the changed events in politics where you've had the circle of history closed, as Her Majesty referred to, with her visit a few years ago, and Uachtaran Higgins' visit to Britain in the last few weeks. The events warrant to be built upon".
When asked if the pontiff had reacted to his invitation, Mr Kenny said, "Well, I wouldn't say that his eyes lit up, but he did of course recognise the country I was speaking about, and the invitation is extended officially through the church authorities.
The Taoiseach also revealed that Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore will be bringing the name of a new ambassador to the Holy See to the Cabinet meeting this week. "I expect the Tanaiste to bring a name to Cabinet on Wednesday for appointment as ambassador to the Holy See," he said.
The decision to close the Vatican embassy in November 2011 caused controversy, and as recently as last September the Tanaiste stated there were "no plans" to re-open it. However today the Taoiseach denied that the reversal of this decision was sending out "a mixed signal on the Government's stance towards the Catholic Church.
"Quite a number of people in Ireland have been complimentary about that decision. That's not a mixed signal, it's very clear and decisive. The decision made in the beginning was based strictly on economics because there was a vacancy here in the Vatican."
Speaking alongside Cardinal Sean Brady at the Irish College in Rome, Mr Kenny described the double canonisation of the popes as "an extraordinary event and I was happy to be here on behalf of the Irish people".