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Pope in Ireland: Mary McAleese accused of offending the faithful ahead of Pontiff visit



Mary McAleese

Mary McAleese

Ronan Mullen

Ronan Mullen


Mary McAleese

Former Irish President Mary McAleese is under fire for her “unkind and untrue” labelling of the World Meeting of Families as a “right-wing rally”.

Belfast-born Mrs McAleese has been hugely critical of the gathering, which will bring 37,000 people to the RDS in Dublin this week. 

She claimed it is designed to “rally people to get them motivated to fight against the tide of same-sex marriage, rights for gays, abortion rights, contraceptive rights”.

The World Meeting of Families is the reason Pope Francis is travelling to Ireland, with the Phoenix Park Mass for 500,000 being the official closing ceremony of the festival.  

Mrs McAleese is refusing to attend, although she will be in Dublin Castle on Saturday when the Irish Government hosts a State ceremony to welcome the pontiff.

Irish senator Ronan Mullen hit out at the ex-President, suggesting she has offended “thousands of grounded and generous people who are coming to celebrate their faith and reflect on what it has to say about their lives as families and their commitment as Christians”.

“A quick look at the programme for this event and the profile of the people coming will show that Mary McAleese has got these people badly wrong,” Mr Mullen said.

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In a statement he noted that Mrs McAleese used the theme ‘Building Bridges’ during her 14 years as President. “‘Building bridges’ used to mean reaching out to people you knew you might never agree with, but finding out what you had in common and learning to get along with, and eventually loving, each other,” he added.

A number of callers to RTE’s Liveline programme yesterday also complained about Mrs McAleese’s attacks on the Catholic Church. But at an event in Dublin last night she appeared undeterred by the criticism. She told an audience: “The future Church must accept and exercise responsibility for the damage it currently causes through its teaching (on homosexuality) to young people, our children, our innocent children.

“This synod is an unique opportunity to ensure that the advice given to Pope Francis will help the Church to navigate out of its current untenable teaching which conduce to the evil of homophobia,” she said.

And in a documentary due to air on RTE One tomorrow night, Mrs McAleese, the mother of a gay son, will describe how her family feels unwelcome in the Catholic church.

In Mary McAleese’s Modern Ireland she tells of her hurt at the airbrushing of same-sex couples from promotional family material for the papal visit.

However, Mr Mullen believes she is feeding a “drumbeat of negativity towards the Pope’s visit”. He claims “some prominent people feel to chastise the Catholic Church without equally acknowledging the huge force for goodness and love that the Church has been and still is”.

“They are angry at the mocking disregard some of these churchmen have shown for the civil law and for the Church’s own moral teachings. And many of them believe, as I do, that nobody who kept knowledge of abuse from responsible civil authorities should hold office as a bishop anywhere or have the title of cardinal.”

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