| 18.2°C Dublin

Why Kenny and the Pope had 'nothing to talk about'

Close

Pope Benedict with International Christian-Democrat members , including Taoiseach Enda Kenny, second from left

Pope Benedict with International Christian-Democrat members , including Taoiseach Enda Kenny, second from left

Pope Benedict with International Christian-Democrat members , including Taoiseach Enda Kenny, second from left

IT was billed as the day Enda Kenny would finally come face to face with the Pope after the Taoiseach's blistering attack on the Vatican last year.

But now it has emerged Mr Kenny never actually met Pope Benedict during his weekend trip to the Vatican.

And last night, the Government insisted a one-on-one discussion was never on the cards, despite suggestions in the days leading up the visit that talks would take place.

At one stage during the week, Mr Kenny even joked he would seek the Pontiff's prayers to help Mayo lift the All-Ireland title.

Ministers watching from home were puzzled by Mr Kenny's decision not to speak to waiting media after the historic encounter, with his top aide Mark Kennelly rushing a downbeat Taoiseach away.

The Taoiseach's spokesman said Mr Kenny had "nothing to talk about" and also stressed that no other leader met the Pope.

He said the Pontiff made a speech and posed for a group picture afterwards.

Other government figures said the Pope was still not fully recovered from a recent visit to the Lebanon.

Dublin Archbishop Dr Diarmuid Martin also downplayed the meeting, and said there was never going to be a conversation between the pair.

Mr Kenny was part of a delegation from the political Christian Democrat International (CDI) grouping, which had an audience with the Pope at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, near Lazio, on Saturday.

In his Dail speech in the wake of the Cloyne report last year, Mr Kenny accused the church hierarchy of being "elite, dysfunctional and narcissistic".

It set off a diplomatic spat, which saw the Vatican withdraw the Papal Nuncio to Ireland and was followed by Government's decision to close the Irish Embassy to the Vatican.

The dip in relations between Ireland and the Vatican has caused deep unease among Fine Gael backbenchers, but Mr Kenny's spokesman said no one-on-one meeting was requested.

Surprised

But some ministers were surprised by Mr Kenny's decision to say nothing after the historic encounter. "It was a funny one alright, people were wondering what was going on," said one last night.

Mr Kenny's spokesman said: "The Taoiseach flagged it from day one; it was never intended there would be a meeting."

When asked why Mr Kenny did not speak to the media after the encounter, the spokesman said: "Because there was nothing to talk about."

Dr Martin also played down the meeting, and said Mr Kenny "was a member of a group of parliamentarians going".

"There would have been no conversation," Dr Martin added.

Mr Kenny, before going into the meeting, also said an invitation for the Pope to come to Ireland was a matter for the church authorities. But Dr Martin said such an invitation had not been discussed by the Bishops Conference.

The archbishop was speaking at the Interfaith Walk of Peace in central Dublin to mark UN International Day of Peace.

Irish Independent