A group of Catholic laypeople claim that an atheist agenda at the heart of the government is to blame for the closure of the state’s embassy to the Vatican.
Ms Mary Fitzgibbon spoke on behalf of the group, known as Ireland Stand Up. She alleged that the closure of the embassy suited the ideology of the Tánaiste Mr Eamon Gilmore, who the group described as a “publicly professed atheist”.
Ireland Stand Up launched a postcard campaign, a Twitter campaign and an online petition, calling for the embassy to be re-opened.
Ms Fitzgibbon said that the embassy had been bought and paid for by the Irish people and was closed earlier this year without any mandate. The decision to close the mission to the Holy See had left many devout Catholics feeling incensed, she said.
The Tánaiste told the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs that the closure of the Vatican Embassy would save the State €800,000 in a full year. He said that the decision to close the mission to the Holy See was made on economic grounds.
Speaking on behalf of the members of Ireland Stand Up, Ms Fitzgibbon argued that the embassy was not closed for economic reasons.
She said that if the government had been concerned about finances they could have closed other embassies and described the decision to close the mission as a direct attack on Catholicism.
Ireland Stand Up directed similar claims at Fine Gael and the Labour Party on Twitter.
“We don’t accept their viewpoint but obviously they’re entitled to have it”, a representative for Labour said.
The group are encouraging members of the public to send ready-made postcards to the Taoiseach. The cards feature a request to re-open the embassy to the Holy See.
The postcards also call upon Mr Kenny to personally invite Pope Benedict XVI to the 2012 International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) in Dublin next June.
Ms Fitzgibbon said Ireland Stand Up were amazed that the Taoiseach could applaud the Olympic torch visiting Dublin but could not respond to their request to invite the Pope to an event that was “akin to the Catholic Olympics”.
The group welcomed Eamon Gilmore’s comments at a sitting of the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs. The Tánaiste’s told the Committee that if the Vatican were to request a papal visit to Ireland the Government would respond positively.
The Secretary General of the IEC, Fr Kevin Doran said he was aware that that there was a campaign calling on the government to issue a formal invitation to the Pope.
“While such a campaign is perfectly legitimate, the Congress has no particular view on that”, Fr Doran stated.
“The International Eucharistic Congress is primarily about promoting a richer celebration and a deeper understanding of the Eucharist. It is first and foremost an encounter with Christ and with one another as disciples”, he added.
“For Catholics, the Pope is a visible sign of our Communion and, if he does come to the Congress, he will be very welcome.”
Ms Fitzgibbon said that the response to the campaign had been overwhelming. The lay initiative attracted international support from Catholics in England, Germany, Russia, Spain, Slovakia and the United States, she claimed.
The members of Ireland Stand Up are confident that the campaign will encourage the government to reverse the decision to close the embassy.
“People have their faith, they know it’s not perfect but it’s very important at times like these when people are feeling the brunt of savage cuts”, Ms Fitzgibbon said.
A representative from the Taoiseach’s office was unavailable for comment at the time of going to print.