Knock congregation urged to appeal embassy closure


THE CURATE at Knock Shrine has called on his congregation to complain to Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore about the decision to close the Irish Embassy in the Vatican.

Fr Richard Gibbons told Sunday mass-goers at Shanvaghera Church they should ring the Taoiseach’s office and contact Mr Gilmore’s Department of Foreign Affairs “in a respectful manner” to voice their dissatisfaction.

Mr Kenny is a TD for Mayo and has an office in Castlebar.

Fr Gibbons told The Irish Timeshe did not accept Mr Gilmore’s statement that the decision to close the embassy was taken on cost grounds and had nothing to do with difficulties over the Cloyne report into clerical child sex abuse.

“I didn’t accept the economic argument. The decision doesn’t reflect at all the wider global and heritage links between ourselves and Rome,” he said.

Fr Gibbons said he got a “pretty good” response from the congregation to his initiative. “It’s not something I do normally but it hit a particular nerve with ordinary Catholics and ordinary priests like myself,” he said.

“I’m not calling for massive civil disobedience or anything like that,” he stressed.

He said decisions such as the one to shut the embassy were being taken in the aftermath of the abuse scandals that had damaged the church, but Catholic priests and laypeople should not feel “cowed” into keeping quiet about other matters to which they objected. “There’s a sense we should just bow the head and take it,” he said.

Fianna Fáil criticised the move to close the embassy, describing the Vatican as “a very important diplomatic centre in Europe”.

Mr Gilmore last week said restoring the embassy could be considered in the future.

The State’s embassy to Iran and its representative office in East Timor will also close.

The decisions followed a review of overseas missions.