Thursday 18 July 2019

State Papers 1988: Second Papal trip hinged on full State visit to Vatican


Pope John Paul II at Shannon airport in September 1979. Picture: Getty
Pope John Paul II at Shannon airport in September 1979. Picture: Getty

Vatican officials noted that Ireland was one of the few "friendly" countries where the head of state had not paid a formal visit to the Pope in Rome.

The revelation came as confidential files in the 1988 State Archive indicated the Government view that any return visit by Pope John Paul II to Ireland was contingent on the President making a full state visit to the Vatican.

Pressure for Pope John Paul II to be formally invited back to Ireland mounted within Irish political circles in 1987-88.

In a confidential letter between the Department of Foreign Affairs chief of protocol, Thelma Doran, and the assistant secretary at the Department of the Taoiseach, Frank Murray, it was noted there were a number of representations made about a repeat of the 1979 Papal visit.

"The thrust of these representations... is that such a visit cannot take place until the President (Patrick Hillery) has made a return visit to the Holy See," Ms Doran wrote.

Government officials indicated that the 1979 visit to Ireland by Pope John Paul II was seen as pastoral rather than a formal State visit.

A Department of Foreign Affairs briefing note indicated that, despite Mr Hillery attending the inauguration of the Pope in 1978 and visits to the Vatican by Peter Barry, Brian Lenihan and Dr Garret FitzGerald between 1977 and 1987, Vatican officials now viewed a formal State visit as important.

"It appears to be that, at official levels in the Vatican, it is noted and commented on from time to time that Ireland is one of the few friendly states of which the head of state has not as yet paid a visit to the Pope," the secret memo added.

Irish Independent

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