The Government is hoping that a major diplomatic engagement with the Vatican can be the beginning of a new chapter in relations between Ireland and the Holy See.
Minister for Europe Thomas Byrne told The Irish Catholic that the coalition is keen to work more closely with the Vatican in areas of mutual interest including human rights and climate change.
He was speaking after being received at the Vatican by Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States – effectively the Holy See’s foreign minister.
Minister Byrne described the appointment as an opportunity for a “good exchange” saying the meeting was an important one given the “tension in the relationship to do with well-known issues over the last 10 to 20 years”.
The tensions around clerical abuse led the government of Enda Kenny to downgrade diplomatic relations with the Vatican by withdrawing a resident ambassador. However, the decision was reversed two years later.
Minister Byrne said the Government believes that Ireland “can work constructively where we agree on the many items that we do, migration and climate change, a whole range of issues that are very important to the Vatican, such as humanitarian assistance and peacekeeping.”
He said that it is vital the relationship is one of mutual respect between “sovereign states” and “no longer a relationship of religious subservience”.
Minister Byrne said the meeting “was the first high-level ministerial interaction [between Ireland and the Holy See] in quite a number of years, and I think it’s important.
“Clearly there has been tension in the relationship to do with well-known issues over the last ten to 20 years,” he said.
Mr Byrne was amongst those who while in opposition campaigned for a reversal of the decision to close the Vatican embassy. “I am glad that we have a resident ambassador to the Holy See. I think it’s very important.”
He said that one of the things the Irish Government wants to tap into is the Vatican’s vast network. “When we were discussing the issue of Syria, one thing the archbishop said to me which struck a chord with me was: ‘Our people on the ground are telling us…’, so it just spoke to me that the Holy See, the Vatican, the Church has people on the ground everywhere, who are able to see exactly what’s happening and I thought that was very useful.
“It just served to remind of the importance of diplomatic relations with the Vatican,” he said.
Read more here – Building diplomatic bridges between Ireland and the Vatican