22 January 2014, The Tablet

Ireland to reopen Holy See embassy shut amid abuse crisis

The Irish Government has announced this week is to re-open its embassy at the Vatican only two years after ministers decided to close it at the height of the devastating abuse crisis.

The move to shut the embassy in November 2011 sent shock-waves through the Vatican, which prides itself on good diplomatic relations, especially with Catholic countries such as the Republic of Ireland.

The Government of Taoiseach Enda Kenny said in 2011 the move was a cost-cutting measure, and it shut its embassies in Iran and East Timor at the same time. It said at the time the decision was not related to the row over the Vatican’s handling of the issue of clerical sexual abuse. Irish politicians were said to be deeply dismayed by a lack of co-operation by the nunciature over investigations into sex abuse in the dioceses of Dublin, Cork and Cloyne.

A 2011 judicial inquiry report in Cloyne, where 19 priests were investigated for abuse, found that the Vatican had described guidelines issued by the diocese in 1996, which included mandatory reporting of all offences, as non-binding.

Months before the decision to close the embassy, Mr Kenny launched an unprecedented attack in the Dáil on the Vatican and accused it of downplaying abuse scandals. He said: "The rape and torture of children were downplayed or 'managed' to uphold instead the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and reputation”.

Shocked by his comments, the Vatican recalled the papal nuncio to Ireland, Archbishop Guiseppe Leanza.

But the announcement in Dublin on Monday marks a renewal of good relations between Dublin and The Holy See.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Eamon Gilmore, who approved the embassy’s 2011 closure, made a pointed reference to Pope Francis, who was elected in February last year. "This will enable Ireland to engage directly with the leadership of Pope Francis on the issues of poverty eradication, hunger and human rights,” Mr Gilmore said.

The new Vatican embassy will focus on international development and be “modest,” the Department for Foreign Affairs said, with a staff of just one. It will be situated in a separate building to the Irish embassy to Rome, which is now in the same location that housed the old embassy to the Holy See, Villa Spada.

Senior church figures have been lobbying in recent months for the Government to overturn its decision on the embassy.

Above: Enda Kenny. Photo: CNS/Reuters

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