Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Irish PM: We'll send an invite to Pope but only if he wants to visit

Enda Kenny

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said yesterday that the Government would only invite the Pope to Ireland if there is an indication he is definitely going to come.

The move comes as Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore dug in against Fine Gael demands for a U-turn over the closure of the Vatican Embassy.

Thousands of pilgrims and members of the Catholic Church will come to Dublin for the 50th International Eucharistic Congress this June in Croke Park.

Members of the church are hopeful Pope Benedict will attend, but are concerned the poor relations with the Government in the wake of the Cloyne Report will put him off.

As a result, Mr Kenny has faced calls to issue a formal invitation to the Pope.

The Taoiseach said the Irish bishops sent an invitation to the Holy See for the Pope to attend the Eucharistic Congress.

"Now if an indication is given that the Pope intends to attend the Eucharistic Congress or at some subsequent event here in Ireland, the Government will be very happy to extend an invitation to the Pope and will treat him with due courtesy as a person of his status would require and demand," he said.

Despite Mr Kenny's reassurances to his backbenchers on the embassy decision, Mr Gilmore stuck to his guns.

The Labour Party leader maintains the decision won't be reviewed until economic conditions improve.

At a lengthy Fine Gael party meeting this week, 30 TDs and ministers spoke in favour of reviewing the closure. Nobody spoke against such a proposal and Mr Kenny spoke strongly about his own personal good relations with the church.

Party backbenchers came away with the expectation the embassy could be re-opened within the next 18 months.

But Mr Gilmore said he had set out his position over recent weeks, at an Oireachtas committee and in the Dail, and there was no change.

"The answers that I gave on both occasions stand," he said.

Mr Kenny played down suggestions the Government was going to review the decision following the Fine Gael meeting.

He said the Government would "review all its operations on an annual basis".

"Let's be clear on this -- the Government made a decision in respect of the embassy at the Vatican. The Government made a decision to appoint a very senior public servant as a non-resident ambassador to the Vatican," he added.

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