Zappone asked that no public money be used for papal event

Minister objected to Catholic families event getting cash after removal of LGBT material

Pope Francis:  organisers of the World Meeting of Families have removed his inclusive language on the family and LGBTI+ pictures from their pamphlets, and deleted references to gay families by a bishop in the catechesis. Photograph: Angelo Carconi

Pope Francis: organisers of the World Meeting of Families have removed his inclusive language on the family and LGBTI+ pictures from their pamphlets, and deleted references to gay families by a bishop in the catechesis. Photograph: Angelo Carconi

 

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone sought assurances from Tánaiste Simon Coveney that no State funding would be used to finance the World Meeting of Families (WMoF) in Dublin attended by Pope Francis in August.

Ms Zappone raised concerns with Mr Coveney in February that no public money would be used for the WMoF due to her disgust at the removal of references to lesbian, gay and transgender Catholics and their families from documents associated with the Vatican-backed organisation.

In the first papal visit since 1979, Pope Francis visited Ireland in August to attend the event. Six months ahead of the visit, Ms Zappone wrote to Mr Coveney to express her concerns.

“Very serious concerns have been brought to my attention by former president Mary McAleese and others regarding the forthcoming World Meeting of Families and the potential use of State funding. As a Government Minister I share these concerns and believe they must be urgently addressed,” she wrote.

Ms Zappone’s letter was released by the department under the Freedom of Information Act among records on the papal visit.

Editing documents

In her letter, the Minister noted recent media reports about the editing of WMoF documents “to remove previously included references to LGBTI-plus Catholics and their families”.

“These actions have raised the prospect that the meeting will include statements on homosexuality, gay marriage and gay adoption which will cause great hurt and offence, not just in our communities but to people worldwide,” Ms Zappone said in her letter, which she copied to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone: Six months ahead of the visit to Ireland this year by Pope Francis, Ms Zappone wrote to Tánaiste Simon Coveney to express her concerns. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
Minister for Children Katherine Zappone: Six months ahead of the visit to Ireland this year by Pope Francis, Ms Zappone wrote to Tánaiste Simon Coveney to express her concerns. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

She wrote to Mr Coveney, whose Department of Foreign Affairs managed the pope’s visit, in her capacity as a Minister and “a representative of citizens who had raised these concerns” seeking assurances that State funding “will not be used to support views and events which do not represent Government policy.”

“Our Government through the Department of Foreign Affairs has been to the forefront in promoting equality and human rights offering hope to those facing inequality, discrimination and abuse,” she wrote.

“Financial support for an event which encourages discrimination and inequality undermines and comprises this work, which has the support of the Irish people.”

Protest songs

The 32-hour papal visit cost an estimated €32 million. Mr Varadkar told the Dáil in July that the State’s share of the cost of the visit would be between €10 million and €20 million.

A choir made up of LGBT singers performed two protest songs outside a WMoF event at the RDS in Dublin over the exclusion of gay, lesbian and transgender groups.

Ms Zappone made a direct appeal to the pope, speaking to him in Italian, about the Tuam mother and baby home scandal when she met him on the steps of Áras an Uachtaráin during his visit.

She handed Pope Francis a two-page letter asking the Vatican to contribute up to €2.5 million towards the cost of excavating the bodies buried in a sewerage system at the site or to create a memorial.

Exhumed

Ms Zappone announced last week that the human remains at the Co Galway home would be exhumed, identified where possible and reburied but the excavation is not likely to begin until next year.

The Bon Secours religious congregation met the Minister’s request to the pope by offering €2.5 million towards the cost of a forensic excavation at the site.