Church-State bond now ‘healthier’, says Kenny

Taoiseach invited Pope Francis to Ireland during meeting at canonisation

Floribeth Mora, from Costa Rice, who it is claimed was cured of a brain aneurism after praying to  John Paul II, presents his relics to Pope Francis during the canonisation in Rome. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty

Floribeth Mora, from Costa Rice, who it is claimed was cured of a brain aneurism after praying to John Paul II, presents his relics to Pope Francis during the canonisation in Rome. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty

Mon, Apr 28, 2014, 06:23

There now exists a “closer and healthier relationship between church and State” in Ireland, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said in Rome yesterday.

“We’ve had all of the reports in Ireland. We have a situation now where the church wants to deal with the scandals of the past in an upfront and open way,” he said.

He also disclosed that Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore would be presenting the name of a new Irish Ambassador to the Holy See for approval at next Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting.

He was speaking at the Irish College in Rome, where he had been hosted to lunch after the canonisation of St John XXIII and St John Paul II. He had spoken briefly to Pope Francis and invited him to Ireland, he said, and it was his hope “that the pope would travel to Northern Ireland as well”.

Asked by The Irish Times if the decision to close the Irish Embassy to the Holy See three years ago only to now reopen it was sending mixed signals to Rome, he said: “That decision made in the beginning was based strictly on economics.”


Healthy relationship
As to whether Ireland had now returned to being a good daughter of the Catholic Church, he said: “Ireland is a country that respects the work of all religions . . . where there is a very healthy relationship between church and State, where we continue with the structured dialogue that we’ve had with His Eminence [Cardinal Brady] and the bishops and the church and we will continue to build on that.”

The church in Ireland “has moved to deal with the many problems of the legacy, the scars of the sex abuse crisis,” he said. “We have made our position very clear by holding a referendum [on children’s rights], the appointment of a senior Minister [Frances Fitzgerald], putting in place legislation.”

Mr Kenny said he expected not only the church, but all the organisations and the agencies to work collectively to see that those legacies are dealt with.

They must ensure that “for now and the future these things cannot happen again”.

The Taoiseach said that when he met Pope Francis after the canonisation, he had assured him if the Irish bishops were to invite him to Ireland, the Government would do everything to “make his visit a real success”.


Papal visit
Asked if the pope had indicated he might visit, the Taoiseach said: “I can’t say that his eyes lit up, but he did recognise the country I was speaking about ... and it is my hope that the pope would travel to Northern Ireland as well, given the changed events in politics where the circle of history has closed following the queen’s visit to Ireland and the recent visit to England by President Higgins.”