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Ireland to close embassy to Holy See

By on Friday, 4 November 2011

Eamon Gilmore, right, and Taoiseach Enda Kenny (Photo: PA)

Eamon Gilmore, right, and Taoiseach Enda Kenny (Photo: PA)

Ireland will close its embassy to the Holy See in what has been described by officials as a cost-saving measure.

Foreign minister Eamon Gilmore said the move was not a result of a dispute between Ireland and the Vatican, which led Italian Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, papal nuncio to Ireland, to be temporarily called back to the Vatican in late July and later reassigned to the Czech Republic.

The Vatican had recalled Archbishop Leanza citing “certain extreme reactions” from politicians after the Vatican was criticised in a report into the mishandling of clerical abuse in the Irish Diocese of Cloyne.

Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi downplayed the Irish government’s decision.

“The Holy See takes note of the decision of Ireland to close its embassy in Rome,” Fr Lombardi said. “Naturally, every state that has diplomatic relations with the Holy See is free to decide … whether to have an ambassador to the Holy See who is resident in Rome or resident in another country. What is important is diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the states, and this is not in question with Ireland.”

Mr Gilmore said it was with “the greatest regret and reluctance” that he had decided to close the Vatican embassy as well as Ireland’s diplomatic missions in Iran and East Timor.

He said the decision “follows a review of overseas missions carried out by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which gave particular attention to the economic return from bilateral missions”.

He noted that while the embassy to the Holy See is one of Ireland’s oldest diplomatic missions, it yields no economic return.

“The government believes that Ireland’s interests with the Holy See can be sufficiently represented by a non-resident ambassador,” he said.

“The government will be seeking the agreement of the Holy See to the appointment of a senior diplomat to this position,” Mr Gilmore said.

He insisted that tensions over clerical sexual abuse had “no bearing” on the decision and that “Vatican relations will continue and be valued”.

Cardinal Seán Brady, president of the Irish bishops’ conference, said the decision “seems to show little regard for the important role played by the Holy See in international relations and of the historic ties between the Irish people and the Holy See over many centuries.”

Cardinal Brady expressed his hope “that despite this regrettable step, the close and mutually beneficial cooperation between Ireland and the Holy See in the world of diplomacy can continue, based on shared commitment to justice, peace, international development and concern for the common good.”

The Vatican was among the first states with which the newly independent Irish Free State established full diplomatic relations in the 1920s. The post of papal nuncio to Ireland is currently vacant after Archbishop Leanza’s reassignment, but Church sources in Dublin expect a new nuncio will be appointed before the end of 2011.

Several countries maintain diplomatic relations with the Holy See without having a resident ambassador in Rome, choosing instead to have an ambassador accredited to a neighbouring country conduct business with the Holy See. Under the terms of the 1929 Lateran Pacts between the Vatican and Italy, ambassadors to the Italian state are not permitted to serve as ambassadors to the Holy See.

  • Aidan

    Well that’s a great way to improve communication….

  • ms Catholic state

    Gosh…..they must be very hard up and stuck for cash.

  • Bob Hayes

    This seems a very short-sighted and petty decision by the Irish government, dressed-up as ‘cost saving’.

  • Buckleyce

    What do you expect from a country that has rediscovered its pagan roots, has revised history and now blames the Vatican and the Church (instead of the British) for its woes, a country that now officially maintains relationships based solely on economic returns. Next, they’ll expatriate St Patrick.

  • Anonymous

    I wonder if there’s an expression in Irish for “cutting off your nose to spite your face”?

  • Anonymous

    @Buckleyce Wasn’t St Patrick from Britain? :) (ok, ok: Britain wasn’t quite the same political entity then as it later became).

  • Kennyinliverpool

    What was the Vatican expecting? People are seething with anger for the way they have dealt with the crisis 
    - the collapse of the Church is the fault of predatory priests ?? 

  • Seán, Dublin

    Labour a major player in the new ‘Government’ and they allow ‘market forces’ to determine foreign policy! Very socialist I must say. Of course, anyone with any nous knows that Labour is a party for secularist liberals.

  • parasum

    The *British* were responsible for the abuse after the 1960s ? That’s worse than idiotic – it’s typical of the brazen lies some people will tell to put the guilt for these disgusting crimes absolutely anywhere but where it belongs.

  • parasum

    One word: Eurozone

  • Bob Hayes

    Are you suggesting Eamon Gilmore lied about the real reason for closing the embassy?

  • theroadmaster

    This is a petulant and immature move by the government of the Republic of Ireland as it seeks to justify it in terms of economic rectitude.  It is a barely-disguised, petty settling of scores with the Vatican regarding unproved  accusations that Rome attempted to interfere with inquiries regarding clerical sex-abuse of minors.  The dissembling nature of this explanation can be seen, when one considers that Ireland has options open to downgrade diplomatic missions in a host of other countries which give poor economic returns and have much lesser ties with the Irish people than the Holy See.  Historically the establishment of diplomatic ties with Vatican city in 1929 is one of the Republic of Ireland’s oldest overseas missions.   This relationship spiritually has extended back over countless centuries and is now effectively being disavowed by the expedient actions of the current Irish government.  Of course, the sins of predatory priests  and the inaction of bishops cannot be discounted from the root causes that led to the build up of bad feeling between Irish politicians and the electorate towards the Irish hierarchy and consequently Holy See.  But I think that the reduction of the status of the importance of the embassy in the Vatican city is very short-sighted and contemptuous of the historical relationship between Ireland and the Catholic Faith.

  • Oconnordamien

    Most likely English but perhaps Welsh. In those days the Irish raided Britain to capture slaves.

  • Wolfgang Munster Schnozle

    I dont think this is anything for the Roman church to get steamed up about.

    Irelands will always keep axcess to the majestic embassy of our Lord Jesus Christ.  

  • Wolfgang Munster Schnozle

    Rome stops its priests getting maried as a means of economic judisprudence so why do you consider a country that’s skint; flat broke and have had to be saved from bankruptcy should not close an expensive non productive building Sir?

  • Bob Hayes

    With a population of 4.5 million, a good place to make economies would be amongst the bloated political elite: the sixty member Seanad and the 166 member Dáil could certainly be slimmed down. As for your comment about priestly celibacy, on what grounds are your remarks based, mein Herr?

  • Oconnordamien

    I agree the Seanad should be reformed, or indeed replaced or removed. The 166 Dail members should also be re-organised to reflect the population demographics of the country. There is far too much of a bias towards county area’s that does not reflect the populace in the majority based areas of the country as a whole.

    I though will not make the presumption, that as your name sounds less Irish than mine, that your point was invalid.

  • Oconnordamien

    The Irish government just followed the example from the Vatican but with less of a sense of pique. The Vatican ambassador was removed on short notice, re-assigned to Poland and would by replaced at some stage in 2012 by persons unknown.

    The Irish, after months of “tension”, made the same decision as the Vatican, but did so logically. It reconsidered how useful it’s embassy was and took steps in that direction. It did not close it’s embassy, merely changed the Italian staff to the ex-Vatican building. Thus making the Italian staff more efficient, rather than having a rented office they now use the Irish owned ex-Vatican embassy.

  • Anonymous

    I agree that the Irish Catholics of Ireland are only a drop in the ocean but let’s not forget the descendants of Irish Catholics found worldwide. These people (like the American Irish) are deeply rooted in their ancestry and to some extent still deeply rooted in their Catholicism. For instance in the United-States alone, there are more or less 36.200 000 Americans of Irish descent. On top of this, there’s Australia, New-Zealand, Canada and Britain.
    So no, Irish Catholicism is not minimal. This does not go to say of course that all these people practice Catholicism and attend church.
    It’s worth to be noted that Eire has shut down their embassy in Iran and in Timor Leste but for them to claim that they shut down their embassy to the Holy See because it was proving to be too expensive is ludicrous. No way.
    Let’s go back in time, in July, the Vatican recalled its ambassador to Ireland. He has since reintegrated the Vatican’s embassy in Ireland.
    In my personal opinion, the only reason why Eire closed it’s embassy in Rome is down to the fact that the Irish prime-minister accused the Holy See of obstructing the investigations into sexual abuse by clerics. This is what is reported in any case.
    In a word, it’s tit of tat and nothing more. But I personally believe that Eire does have a very important role to play in the future of Catholicism and that it should maintain its relationship with the Vatican solid and in place.

    This being said I’m sure that it will all pan itself out eventually. —

  • Buckleyce

    I was pointing to a culture of blaming others instead of taking responsibility as a people. I most certainly don’t blame the British. In Ireland in the past the British got blamed for everything which I agree is idiotic, now it’s the ‘Church/Vatican’ that is the scapegoat.

    Irish society as a whole allowed these crimes to happen- this is a difficult pill to swallow so instead the local priests and the Vatican get blamed because they were educated and ‘we, the people’ weren’t. As if you need to be educated to discern right from wrong and stand up and do something about it.

    Its a bit like the Germans claiming not to have known what was going on in Germany or using the excuse of being afraid to do something about the killing of their jewish neighbours.

  • Buckleyce

    Yes, Welsh or at least a Roman citizen who brought the demise of the old pagan culture and introduced Christianity to the chagrin of post Catholic/socialist Ireland- all the more reason to banish him if you you want to remove Christianity as an influence and replace it with a secular society. 

    His name has ‘economic value’ though: tourism, Guinness, green hats etc March 17. Post Catholic Ireland might try to keep that and just discredit his Christian teachings.

  • Anonymous

    I am Irish & Catholic & I absolutely agree with Bob Hayes. Incidentally it was recently reported in the Irish media ( buried in page 40 ) that 35 children died in State ” care ” over the last 2 years. Yet we have’nt had a peep from the same media calling for Kenny’s/Gilmores resignations. It appears that child abuse is only of interest to them where they can pin it on the Churrch. What a gang of unprincipled hypocrites. It’s hard to think of words to describe Kenny & co. without resorting to vulgarity.

  • Anonymous

    Seething with anger, my …..As I have previously pointed out, recent reports showed that 35 children died in the States ” care ” in  the last 2 years ; over 200 in the last decade. But there have been absolutely no apologies from Kenny/Gilmore, no heads have rolled ( & none will ), & the media are not at all interested. Selective/hypocrtical anger more like. As a proud Irishman, it pains me to say this, but the Vatican are better off having nothing more to do with this pathetic banana republic.

  • AgingPapist

    Ireland should sever diplomatic relations with the Holy See and start to seize the Church’s loot piled up since the Normans. Then distribute it to the children and the parents of the victims defiled by these beastly priests.

  • Bob Hayes

    Oh, Ireland needs an amalgam of Henry VIII and Robin Hood! Hasn’t she enough troubles?

  • Julie

    Big mistake.  Will backfire.  Cannot wait to see the end of this coalition government.  Amateurs.

  • Anonymous

    Kenny told blatant lies in the Dail about both the Pope & the Vatican. When the Vatican replied in suitably diplomatic language ( depite Kenny’s vile provocations ) pointing out the errors in Kenny’s speech, he was’nt man enough to apologise. The Vatican replied to a legal document ( The Murphy Report ) & were accussed by Gilmore of being ” legalistic ” ; you could’nt make it up. The actions of the Irish government are cheap, vulgar & demagogic. Just like Kenny’s speech. The infantilisation of Irish society continues apace. Please pray for us. 

  • Kevin Greenan

    As an Irish Catholic I am appalled and embarrassed by the decision of the Irish government to close its embassy in the Vatican. Whatever denials and excuses are given, few will believe that the decision has not been influenced by the difficulties over the abuse scandal. This act, if carried out, will be resented throughout the world where there are Irish citizens or those proud of their Irish heritage. I am Irish and Catholic, I warn the Dublin government not to test my loyalty by having to choose between my faith and my nationality!

    Kevin Greenan

  • J Kang

    Is this not too much of a “low-cost airline mentality” on diplomatic relations? Even disregarding the fact that Ireland was once the “priest-factory” of Europe, I still think if you consider Vatican as a state on her own (which I believe she is), you should still show some respect for her. I am saying this particularly because I am South Korean and the first state we formed diplomatic relation with was nowhere else but the Vatican.