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Friday 17 November 2017

Senators to invite Francis to address Upper House

Pope Francis
Pope Francis
John Drennan

John Drennan

Fresh from their salvation in the Seanad abolition referendum, senators are to invite Pope Francis to address the Upper House.

Although the invitation is unlikely to be taken up, the Pontiff is to be invited to visit the State this year as part of an initiative led by Senator David Norris.

The move was proposed before Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore's decision to reopen Ireland's Embassy to the Holy See last week.

A motion will be laid before the Seanad shortly in the wake of all-party agreement on the proposal at a meeting of the Seanad Committee of Procedures and Privileges last week.

Part of the visit would consist of offering the Pope an opportunity to address a joint sitting of both Houses of the Oireachtas in the Seanad.

The Pope is not the only high-profile international figure who has been invited to address the Seanad.

Cathaoirleach of the Seanad, Senator Paddy Burke, said others who are on the invitees list included Hilary Clinton and John Major.

However, the Pope is the most politically sensitive name on the list, given the scale of the cold war that escalated between Ireland and the Vatican in the wake of the Taoiseach's impassioned critique of the former after the publication of the Cloyne Report.

Mr Kenny warned that the relationship between the Government and the Vatican came to an "unprecedented juncture" and slammed the dysfunction, disconnection and elitism that "dominates the culture of the Vatican to this day".

The nadir in relations was, however, reached with the now reversed decision to close down the Irish Embassy to the Vatican.

The Seanad will formally request the Government makes "formal arrangements necessary for such a visit which may naturally include meetings with the President, An Taoiseach and political leaders".

Much of this is believed to be down to the somewhat unique persona of the Pope rather than Vatican diplomatic wiles.

Mr Norris, who was an arch critic of the Pope's predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, told the Sunday Independent a key factor behind the invitation had been the Pontiff's change in tone.

"In a world devoid of any kind of political or moral prophets or vision, Pope Francis is a rare exception in his use of words such as the joy and hope of the gospel message," he said.

Irish Independent

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