(AFP) – 3 hours ago
DUBLIN — "Ireland said Thursday it would close its embassy to the Vatican as part of a shake-up of its missions abroad following a row with the Holy See earlier this year over a child sex abuse scandal.
"It is with the greatest regret and reluctance that the government has decided to close Ireland's (embassy) to the Holy See," said a statement from the foreign ministry.
Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore said the move was not connected to the row with the Vatican which was sparked by a July report into a long-running abuse scandal in the diocese of Cloyne, insisting it was aimed at saving money.
"I very much regret that due to the financial constraints that this country is under at the moment that we have to reduce the number of missions that we have abroad, including the mission that we have at the Vatican," he told RTE state radio.
The foreign ministry added in a statement that "the government believes that Ireland's interests with the Holy See can be sufficiently represented by a non-resident ambassador."
Cardinal Sean Brady, the ecclesiastical head of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, expressed his "profound disappointment" at the decision, which was relayed to him by Gilmore in a telephone conversation earlier Thursday.
"This 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," said Brady in a statement.
"I hope that today's decision will be revisited as soon as possible," he added.
The Vatican took note of Ireland's decision and stressed in a statement: "What is important are diplomatic relations between the Holy See and other states, and in the case of Ireland they are not brought into question."
The Irish ministry also announced the closure of the embassy in Iran and a representative office in East Timor as part of the overhaul, which it also insisted were aimed at saving money in the wake of the financial crisis.
Predominantly Catholic Ireland has traditionally had close links with the Vatican and the embassy was opened in 1929 but Dublin and the Holy See fell out dramatically earlier this year.
The July report into more than a decade of abuse by priests in the diocese of Cloyne condemned the Church's handling of abuse claims against clerics as inadequate.
The report sparked outrage in the Irish government and triggered an unprecedented attack by Prime Minister Enda Kenny who called the Roman Catholic Church's behaviour "absolutely disgraceful".
The Vatican subsequently recalled its envoy to Ireland in order to formulate an official response.
The decision to close the missions followed a 2009 report on public expenditure savings choices for the government which said Ireland had 76 embassies and consulates compared to 40 in 1989.
The report recommended reducing the number of embassies and consulates to 55.
Thursday's foreign ministry statement insisted the closures were aimed at saving money and made no mention of the child sex abuse row.
"In order to meet its targets under the EU/IMF programme and to restore public expenditure to sustainable levels, the government has been obliged to implement cuts across a wide range of public services," it said..."
Bridget Mary's Reflection:
Be assured that this closure represents more than a break in diplomatic relations between Ireland and the Vatican. It is a seismic shift in consciousness that indicates that the people of Ireland will no longer tolerate a corrupt dysfunctional Vatican whose disgraceful handling of child sex abuse contradicts not only civil law in Ireland, but also, the values of Jesus in the Gospels. The Irish Association of Priests has recently come out for an end to mandatory celibacy and for women priests. Kudos to the women and men of Ireland, the land of my birth, who are no longer afraid of the crack of a crozier! It is time for faithful Catholics worldwide to speak truth to power and demand reform. It is time to follow the example of the Isle of Saints and Scholars.
Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP
Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests