Ireland announced on Thursday that is was closing its embassy at the Vatican – headquarters of the Catholic Church – due to economic reasons. However some believe it was the result of strained relations between the majority Catholic Ireland and the Church over a bad report about the handling of child abuse cases involving the Church.
Ireland will now be the only major country of ancient Catholic tradition without an embassy to the Vatican.
“This is really bad for the Vatican because Ireland is the first big Catholic country to do this and because of what Catholicism means in Irish history,” said a Vatican diplomatic source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
He said Ireland informed the Vatican shortly before the announcement was made on Thursday night.
Dublin’s foreign ministry said the embassy was being closed because “it yields no economic return” and that relations would be continued with an ambassador in Dublin.
Of course many don’t think it was due to financial reasons. The relations between Ireland and the “Holy See” became strained when a recent government report came out and said that the Church actively obstructed investigations into child sexual abuse involving priests.
While Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore denied the embassy closure was linked to the row over sexual abuse, Rome-based diplomats said they believed it probably played a major role.
“All things being equal, I really doubt the mission to the Vatican would have been on the list to get the axe without the fallout from the sex abuse scandal,” one ambassador to the Vatican said, on condition of anonymity.