Warm presidential welcome for Pontiff

Warm presidential welcome for Pontiff President Michael D Higgins and Pope Francis at Áras an Uachtaráin
The Pope in Ireland


Visiting Áras an Uachtaráín

The personal affection of President Michael D. Higgins for Pope Francis was evident when the Holy Father arrived at Áras an Uachtaráin. Mr Higgins has often referenced the Pontiff in his speeches and clearly sees him as a towering figure on the international stage when it comes to issues like global poverty and climate justice.

During the meeting, the third between the two men, the President noted how the Pope’s environmental encyclical Laudato Si’ had made an “important contribution…to the debate on the importance of connecting ecology, economics and ethics”.

According to a communique from Áras an Uachtaráin, the two leaders also continued previous discussions on such issues of mutual concern such as inequality, poverty, violent conflict and migration, emphasising the need for concerted international action in tackling these and how social cohesion, solidarity and human rights must be at the heart of political and personal responses to the current challenges facing global communities.

President Higgins said he shared the Pope’s concern at “the globalisation of indifference”, with both men agreeing on the importance of protecting vulnerable communities and individuals, and on the need for measures to prevent and redress all forms of abuse of privilege and power.

The President also spoke about homelessness, health, education and nutrition, and said that an equality of rights defined a Republic, maintaining that acts of exclusion, including those based on gender and sexual orientation, have caused and continue to cause great suffering.

President Higgins also welcomed how Pope Francis has spoken of abuse in his recent pastoral letter, and urged him to follow these words with actions.

The President took advantage of the brief meeting to raise the issue of suffering and hurt caused by child abuse perpetrated within the Church. According to the statement, “he spoke of the anger which had been conveyed to him at what was perceived to be the impunity enjoyed by those who had the responsibility of bringing such abuses for action by the appropriate authorities and have not done so”.


Welcoming “the honest and forthright language” used in last week’s Letter to the People of God, President Higgins “conveyed to Pope Francis the widely-held view that all would benefit from a set of actions that gave the necessary assurances to all citizens past, present and future, of all faiths and none”.

During the visit Pope Francis planted an oak tree in the grounds of Áras an Uachtaráin, and wrote in the visitors’ book: “With gratitude for the warm welcome I have received, I assure you and the people of Ireland of my prayers that Almighty God may guide and protect you all. Francis.”