Taoiseach invites Pope Francis to Ireland

Tánaiste to bring name of new ambassador to Holy See to cabinet in coming days

Taoiseach Enda Kenny (left) and France’s prime minister Manuel Valls  attend the canonisation ceremony of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican today. Mr Kenny has asked Pope Francis to visit Ireland. Photograph: Max Rossi/Reuters.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny (left) and France’s prime minister Manuel Valls attend the canonisation ceremony of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican today. Mr Kenny has asked Pope Francis to visit Ireland. Photograph: Max Rossi/Reuters.

Sun, Apr 27, 2014, 17:50

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has invited Pope Francis to Ireland.

He also said this afternoon that the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore will bring the name of Ireland’s new ambasssador to the Holy See to the cabinet on Wednesday.

Speaking to the media at the Irish College in Rome, where he had just been to a lunch, Mr Kenny said that while it was up to the Church to invite Pope Francis to Ireland, the Government would provide whatever support was necessary.

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The Taoiseach also said he told Pope Francis that his papacy to date had brought about “an extraordinary difference to the perception of the Catholic Church. ”

He also said that in Ireland now there was “a clearer and healthier relationship between Church and State”.

Asked if the Pope had indicated that he might be coming to Ireland, the Taoiseach replied: “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...”

Mr Kenny was accompanied by the Catholic primate Cardinal Seán Brady, who said he was delighted to see such a strong representation from the Irish Government at the canonisation which he described as “a great day for the Church.”

Mr Kenny was in Rome to see Pope Francis declare Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II as saints at a ceremony during Mass in Rome’s St Peter’s Square this morning.

Hundreds of thousands of people from around the world had converged on the Vatican to attend the sainthood ceremony of two giants of the Catholic Church in the 20th century.

An estimated 3,000 Irish pilgrims are in Rome for the canonisations.

Mr Kenny denied that his Government has been sending “mixed signals” to the Holy See in relation to the painful question of the Irish clerial sex abuse crisis.

Asked about the decision to close the Irish Embassy to the Holy See, three years ago, only to now reopen it, he replied: “That decision made in the beginning was based strictly on economics...I expect the Tánaiste to bring a name to Wednesday’s cabinet meeting, the name of someone to be appointed Ambassador to the Holy See and a lot of people in Ireland have been complimentary about that decision and that is not a mixed signal, it is very clear and decisive.”