By Susan Gately - 22 January, 2014
There has been a widespread welcome for the government announcement made yesterday that the Irish Embassy to the Holy See is to reopen. The coalition government closed the Vatican embassy twenty six months ago in a cost cutting exercise widely interpreted as a snub to the Catholic Church following revelations of child sex abuse by priests.
Welcoming the decision Ireland’s papal nuncio, Archbishop Charles Brown said he was pleased both about the re-opening and that a resident Ambassador was to be appointed. “It is an excellent decision for the people of Ireland and will be beneficial to Ireland in making its distinctive and important contribution to international relations. We are all grateful to those who worked so hard to make this day possible.”
Archbishop Martin, who before becoming archbishop of Dublin represented the Holy See in many international development forums said the re-opening the Embassy on a smaller scale was a “very constructive exercise”.
He said that from the outset of his pontificate, Pope Francis had dedicated himself to being a strong voice for fighting poverty and the Vatican remained “an important place of interchange on questions of global development”. Archbishop Martin added that a resident Irish Ambassador would enhance relations between the Vatican and Ireland.
Just two months ago during question time, the Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore said there was no plan to re-establish a resident embassy to the Holy See “in the immediate term”, however in a statement yesterday he said that that “the scaled back embassy, which will have a staff of just one person, will help Ireland to engage directly with the leadership of Pope Francis on the issues of poverty eradication, hunger and human rights”.
Cardinal Séan Brady, Primate of All Ireland, paid tribute to Mr David Cooney who has acted as non-resident Ambassador to the Holy See since the closure of the embassy.
“Whilst the embassy has been closed since November 2011, it is important to recognise that diplomatic relations between Ireland and the Holy See were in existence and productive during this time,” said Cardinal Brady.
Dr Brady said the decision reflected positively on the “process of Church State Structured Dialogue” as the question of the re-opening of the embassy to the Holy See was “one of the issues raised by our delegation at the meeting of that dialogue in Government Buildings last January”.
He went on: “Based on our shared commitment to justice, peace, eradication of poverty, international development, and the protection of the environment, I now look forward to on-going and fruitful co-operation between Ireland and the Holy See for the common good.”
Three other embassies are being opened this year: in Nairobi, Zagreb, Jakarta and Bangkok as well as The Holy See. There will also be new consulates in Austin, Hong Kong and Sao Paulo. All of the new offices will have a staff of between one and three people.
The Rome correspondent with the Irish Times said the announcement had been greeted “with immediate satisfaction by Vatican officials.” “One senior Vatican figure said the reopening will mark “the end of a painful period” in Ireland’s relations with the Holy See,” wrote Paddy Agnew.