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On the eve of Pope Francis’s anniversary, MEP Nessa Childers says Vatican links remain relevant for an increasingly secular Ireland

Press Release

Wednesday 12 Mar 2014

Irrespective of religious beliefs, Ireland and the Vatican maintain important links that need to be nurtured, Nessa Childers MEP said today on the eve of Pope Francis’s one year anniversary at the helm of the Catholic Church.
‘Relations between our nation and the Vatican really broke down under Benedict XVI,’ Ms Childers said this morning from Strasbourg where European Parliament voting is taking place. ‘And I’ve always supported the strong stance that our Taoiseach has taken against the Catholic hierarchy.
‘But in the space of a year, we’ve witnessed great diplomatic strides being made.
‘Ireland is now a diverse nation made up of many different religious beliefs – including no beliefs at all – but still, it must be acknowledged that improved dealings with a powerful organisation such as the Vatican are to be warmly applauded.
‘And after the controversial closing of our historic embassy in Rome, I was pleased when it was announced earlier this year that a scaled down office will be reopening shortly.’
She added: ‘Poverty, women’s rights, AIDs and HIV, hunger, access to education and the environment are all important humanitarian areas that Ireland and the Vatican can work in tandem in order to achieve great things.’
Ms Childers, an independent MEP, also said: ‘We all know that the reputation of Catholic Church has taken a severe battering over the last decade. People in this country are simply no longer willing to submit to holy leaders without question.
‘But in his inaugural year in power, there is no doubt that Pope Francis has run an expert PR campaign that has broadened his appeal and made him far more accessible.
‘It appears that the Vatican now acknowledges its image needs to be worked on – that a papal reputation is not untouchable. Certainly in the last 12 months, Francis has recognised that appearing warm and humble is vital to the maintenance of his office and in my opinion further, more radical changes within the Church are necessary.’