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Embassy goes and Irish papal visit scotched

DUBLIN (SE): When the Vatican state became the first official friend of the fledgling Irish Free State in 1929, the government was delighted and effusive in its gratitude after signing its landmark diplomatic tie with a foreign sovereign entity.

However, the bishops of Ireland were upset, claiming that they had not been consulted on the matter and feared that a nunciature would usurp their authority.

A Holy See peace envoy reported that he had travelled to Ireland to meet with 26 bishops, but instead had met with 26 popes.

With the announcement in late October this year by the government of Enda Kenny in Dublin that what was once described by a pope as the most Catholic country in the world would withdraw its ambassador from the Vatican and close its embassy to the Holy See, the bishops are upset again, but this time for a different reason.

Kenny cited budget cutting and economic austerity for the measure, saying that it did not reflect tensions between the Holy See and Dublin over accusations he made of interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state.

It seems as if the Irish budget does not run to papal tours either, as an announcement by the Irish foreign minister, Eamon Gilmore, that his government would not be issuing an invitation to Pope Benedict XVI to attend the International Eucharistic Congress scheduled to be held in Dublin in June 2012, puts paid to next year’s expected visit of the pontiff to Ireland.

It had been reported that final preparations were being made in the early part of this year to issue an invitation to Pope Benedict from the government of the Emerald Isle to attend the congress.

Gilmore noted that the invitation had not been extended and is currently not under active consideration. Father Kevin Doran, the secretary general of the congress, said that without such an invitation, it would be in effect impossible for the pope to travel to Ireland.

Writing in the Irish Independent, David Quinn calls the government decision both petty and immature. “If economic factors were really the overriding criteria, then why do we have an embassy in tiny Lesoto, for example, a country with which we have very few historic or cultural ties?” he questions.

He further questions, if economic reasons really are the overriding criteria in keeping embassies open, why not close all of the ones in countries that do not produce biggish trade or cash flows?

“Ultimately, there is no disguising the fact that we have closed the embassy in response to the various reports on child abuse in Catholic dioceses and the perceived lack of Vatican cooperation with them,” Quinn writes on November 4.

He points out that Kenny’s accusation relates not to interfering in the affairs of the state, but to perceived inactivity. However, Quinn says that asking a sovereign state to address its questions through proper diplomatic channels does not amount to inactivity.

“The Vatican did not respond directly to the (Murphy) commission, but it did not ignore it either,” Quinn says.

He adds that expressing a reservation about a decision of the bishops of Ireland over mandatory reporting of sex abuse cases hardly equates to interference in internal affairs, especially at a time when the government and the health minister, Michael Noonan, held the same reservation.

Quinn says that taking into particular account the recent government attack on the seal of the confessional, it is plain to see that the Church in Ireland is now dealing with an extremely hostile government.

“Church-bashers are delighted with the decision, just as their Brit-bashing forebears would have been delighted had we withdrawn our ambassador to Britain in protest over some grievance in decades past,” Quinn says in summing up the mood in the Church in his country today.

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