Last Sunday the Curate at Knock Shrine, Fr Richard Gibbons urged his congregation at Mass in Shanvaghera Church to contact Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s Castlebar or Dublin offices and appeal against the decision to close the Irish Embassy in the Vatican.
During his eulogy Fr Gibbons spoke passionately to his congregation about what he believes will be the negative consequences of the closure on ordinary Catholics, and he said he believes there is considerable disappointment and anger in the county.
Speaking to The Mayo News yesterday (Monday) Fr Gibbons said he believes a direct communication with the Vatican is vital in restoring the fragmented relationship with the State and the Catholic hierarchy.
He said the reaction to his sermon has been ‘pretty good’ and he advised Catholics in Mayo who disagree with the closure to contact either the Taoiseach or Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore’s Department of Foreign Affairs.
Fr Gibbons said, “There is a strong argument not to shut it down. If we close the Embassy it means we do not wish to reengage and it gives a clear signal to the Vatican. There has been a lot of evil perpetrated but let’s not lose sight of the overall contribution and influence of the Catholic Church.”
The Curate also emphasised the positive work which Ireland and the Vatican have achieved as part of their collaborative work with the United Nations in the areas of conflict resolution, family-friendly policies and climate change. He added, “Not everything is evil, not everything is bad. There’s a lot of good work which is also being done.”
Fr Gibbons said he did not accept the statement from the Tánaiste that the decision to close the embassy was taken for economic reasons and had nothing to do with disagreements over the Cloyne report into clerical child sex abuse. He continued, “There is an Irish Embassy in Luxembourg but what huge economic value is there? I think it’s hard for anybody to accept that [argument]”.
Fr Gibbons said he is convinced many ordinary Catholics feel the same way but a significant number are reluctant to voice their opinions in light of the recent scandals. He said, “As a result of the scandals most ordinary Catholics and priests are deemed to not have a legitimate opinion or say anymore and that’s a shame. Now is a time to engage and talk.”
The Louisburgh native said he accepts there is a lot of justified anger towards the Catholic Church but he said he believes the decision to close the embassy will be ultimately damaging. “If you want to resolve difficulties you have to keep lines of communication open and face to face interaction is a key part of this,” he added.