Kenny to join European leaders to meet Pope Benedict in Rome


TAOISEACH ENDA Kenny will be among a group of European political leaders who will meet Pope Benedict in Rome on Saturday.

Mr Kenny will visit the pope’s residence at Castel Gandolfo on Saturday afternoon with a small group of prime ministers and presidents drawn from other EU countries.

The visit will occur during the course of a two-day meeting of the Centrist Democrats International group hosted by Italian prime minister Mario Monti. The group is affiliated with the European People’s Party, of which Fine Gael is a member.

The visit will draw attention because it will represent the first meeting of the pope and the Taoiseach since Mr Kenny’s speech in the Dáil in July 2011 that severely castigated the Vatican for its inaction in dealing with the issue of child abuse in Ireland.

During the course of the speech, Mr Kenny was scathing of what he described as “the dysfunction, the disconnection, the elitism that dominates the Vatican today”.

The Vatican responded to the claims made by Mr Kenny, describing them as “unfounded”.

The speech was made following the publication of the report into the Catholic Church’s handling of child abuse cases by the clergy in the Diocese of Cloyne.

He alleged that the Vatican had attempted to frustrate inquiries into allegations of child abuse.

In the outspoken speech, which won much praise in Ireland, Mr Kenny intimated that retaining its power was a more important priority for the Catholic Church than dealing with the difficult issue of abuse of Irish children by clergy. In one of his most direct criticisms, he said the rape of children had been managed to protect the institution.

Mr Kenny will travel to Rome on Friday and will hold a meeting with Mr Monti. The Italian prime minister will also hold one-on-one talks with Greek prime minister Antonis Samaras and Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy.