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Papal Nuncio under fire for ignoring female journalist in letter snub that felt like a 'punch in the stomach'

The Papal Nuncio to Ireland has been rebuked by a Catholic group for snubbing journalist Ursula Halligan over an event in Dublin on International Women's Day.

Ms Halligan recently wrote to the Nuncio, Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo, about a protest by members of the lay reform group, We Are Church Ireland, outside the papal Nunciature in Dublin.

The letter was co-signed by Colm Holmes, who is joint co-ordinator of the lay group along with Ursula Halligan.

However, Archbishop Okolo, who represents Pope Francis in Ireland, addressed his response solely to Mr Holmes, ignoring Ms Halligan.

Speaking to the Irish Independent at the protest outside the Nunciature on the Navan Road in Dublin, the former TV3 political correspondent described Dr Okolo's response as like a "punch in the stomach".

"I think that the prejudice is so ingrained that they don't even see us - they automatically go for the male and I think that just proves our point today about how sexist the institutional Church is," she said.

The gathering by the Catholic group was intended to send a message to Pope Francis that the faithful would "no longer tolerate the second-class status of women in the Catholic Church".

In a statement read out at the gates to the Nunciature, Ms Halligan said: "We are sending a strong message to Pope Francis. Women have had enough."

She warned that "many of us are walking away. Those of us who stay, proclaim our equality and work for change".

Calling for a Church where women are not invisible, silenced or ignored but share equally in all ministries, she said that even though the Church purported to represent the people of God on Earth, it excludes half of its members from leadership positions because they are women.

"Archbishop, that is not a Church faithful to the example and message of Jesus. That is an old boys' club," she told the Papal Nuncio in the statement.

"In every other walk of life, women's dignity and equality is being recognised; why should that stop at the church door?" she asked.

"We are here today not to set the table but to take our place at the table.

"You have rejected half the human race and created a structure exclusively for men and male clerics."

Archbishop Okolo was not at home during the protest. He was contacted for comment by the Irish Independent.

The protesters laid a floral wreath reading: "No Woman, No Church."

Irish Independent